Illinois has a competitive gubernatorial race that has extended past the primary season. Only recently have polls swung back in favor of current Governor Pat Quinn on the Democratic ticket. Quinn deserves reelection, especially in the face of challenger Bruce Rauner.
People are often short sided with their political feelings, so it’s not surprising that many have already forgotten about the chaos in the governor’s mansion that landed Quinn in the driver’s seat in the first place. When former Governor Rod Blagojevich left for prison, the corruption motif of liberal Chicago big-wigs coming to Springfield without a care for the average Illinoisan was in full swing. This was the office Quinn inherited, and to his credit, rather than use the situation as a scapegoat for not getting policy past those pesky Republicans, Quinn rose to the challenge and implemented several laws and policies that will continue to help Illinois for years to come.
Back in May of 2011, Quinn made an incredibly important decision for the future of human rights in this country. Calling it the “most difficult decision” he had made as governor until that point, Quinn abolished the death penalty in the state of Illinois. This act should have been a shining beacon to other liberal leaders but, as with most political hot buttons, seemed to be forgotten almost as soon as it became an issue. Yet, even to those ideologically in favor of the death penalty, Quinn’s action should inspire hope in his leadership ability. In my home state of Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper faced a similar situation last year when the topic of the death penalty arose and ended up more or less balking on the issue, using a “temporary reprieve” that kept a singular execution from happening until another governor overturns his decision. Fear of political outrage from either side paralyzed Hickenlooper, leading him to a decision that left most parties upset.
The contrast here is clear. Unlike many of his liberal counterparts, Pat Quinn is willing to sink his teeth into an issue that he claims to care about. So far, much of the campaign ads in this race have focused on Quinn’s raising of taxes while in office. Here again is a very partisan issue, inspiring rage from the right and words of encouragement from the left. Yet again we see Quinn acting in the state’s best interest rather than what will be politically popular. Conservative sites claim Quinn hit Illinois with a two-thirds increase in taxes, an ultimately misleading figure based on Quinn bumping the individual and corporate income tax rates a couple of points. However, those with a good fiscal memory will also recall the massive pension crisis that has been facing Illinois the last couple of years. By taking the “hands on approach,” Quinn has done his part to put a dent into the crisis and set Illinois up for future economic stability, all for the cost of trailing the polls for the summer season.
Meanwhile Quinn’s opponent seems to be all about rhetoric with very few answers. Like many Republicans running to oust Democrats in charge, Rauner’s issue page of his campaign reads more like a wish list for establishment Republicans than anything else. Clicking through his six self-identified issues for this election, the only thing that seems to be clear is how anti-union Rauner is. Indeed, as much as Illinois Republicans hated Obama’s 2008 calling card of “Hope,” they are offering little more for their party platform. So as you look to cast your ballot this November, ask yourself if you want a liberal governor who isn’t afraid to lose a few votes for the betterment of Illinois, or if you would prefer a conservative, corporate-centered ideologue with no teeth in charge?