By Jamey Dunn
Bill Daley, who dropped out of the Illinois governor’s race last night, told reporters today it was not because he thought he was going to lose.
“It’s not about the campaign and my ability to win,” Daley said at a Chicago press conference this morning. He said that instead, it was about him deciding that the job might not be the best fit. The former White House chief of staff said he has been asking himself, “‘Is this the right thing for me to do, to the best of my skills over the next number of years, that I feel excited to be doing?’” Daley said it took the experience of campaigning for him to come to his decision. “It’s one thing to be, quite frankly, in the gallery, and it’s another thing to be on the dance floor.”
Daley, who recently turned 65, said he did not know if he would have the stamina to govern the state for years during such difficult times. “That need for that energy at that stage is probably not going to be there.” Illinois faces high unemployment rates, an almost $100 billion unfunded public pension liability and a state budget that is still on shaky ground.
Daley said that whoever wins the governor’s race could address those issues “in a very serious way,” but he said it would take “courage” from the governor and lawmakers. However, he predicts that his former opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn, will not be the victor. When asked why, he said, “I’ve made my opinion of Pat Quinn pretty clear over the last couple of months.” Daley added, “I’ll be proven either a genius or an idiot next year.” Daley said he has no plans to endorse any candidate at this point. When asked if he was being a disloyal member of the Democratic Party by saying that its likely candidate cannot win the general election, he said, “You also have to be a good citizen, and that’s an individual judgment.” Daley said he plans to return to the private sector but does not yet have a job lined up.
Quinn’s campaign said that Daley’s decision to drop out would help Quinn in his goal of defying his former challenger’s prediction. “We respect Bill Daley's decision. A divisive primary would have only helped Republicans who want to take this state backwards and undo the important progress we have made. When Gov. Pat Quinn took the oath of office, Illinois faced a triple crisis due to decades of corruption, fiscal mismanagement and the worst recession since the Great Depression. Under the governor's leadership, Illinois is making a comeback,” said a written statement from the campaign. “We have more work to do. The governor will continue fighting for taxpayers to enact a comprehensive pension reform solution that will strengthen Illinois' economic competitiveness. And when the time comes for voters to make their decision on Nov. 4 next year, we are confident they will recognize the difficult and important work the governor has accomplished on their behalf.”
Quinn still faces long-shot candidate, Tio Hardiman, in the Democratic primary. Hardiman is the former director of the anti-violence group Cease Fire Illinois. After Hardiman was arrested on domestic violence charges last spring, Cease Fire did not renew his contract. Hardiman’s wife opted not to pursue the charges. Hardiman issued a statement upon the news of Daley’s withdraw from the campaign. “For decades the people of Illinois has had to endure failed politics, broken promises and corruption. The condition of the State of Illinois is so bad, that a Lifetime Politician in just 6 weeks had to question his own ambition and drop out. The People of Illinois are strong and determined, they deserve a governor that reflects them, one who is prepared to endure and not weaken.”
But after Daley's change of heart, the Quinn camp must be pretty happy. Attorney General Lisa Madigan was viewed as the greatest potential threat to Quinn’s reelection, but she opted to seek reelection instead of going for the governor’s seat. Now the governor can avoid being bloodied in a tough primary and can hang onto his campaign cash for the general election. Meanwhile the Republican primary remains as crowded as ever. Bloomington Republican Sen. Bill Brady is scheduled to announce his running mate later today.