Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Illinois' Quinn a mighty reformer

Most likely Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be impeached or will voluntarily resign over his attempted sale of Sen. Barack Obama's now-empty Senate seat, but either way Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is likely to be the next governor of Illinois.

Who is Pat Quinn?

Lt. Gov. Quinn has held the #2 spot in Illinois for the last six years and is, oddly, an opponent of the governor and corrupt machine politics generally. This is possible because, in Illinois, the candidates for the governor and lieutenant governor positions run on the same ticket in the general election as a team, but they are chosen separately in the primaries.

Although of the same party, Quinn -- a genuine populist reformer -- cuts a strikingly different political profile than the corrupt careerist Blagojevich.

In the 1970s Quinn, then a tax attorney, led an effort to give the state's voters the citizen initiative. In 1994, he led an effort to limit the terms of legislators to eight years in office, his "Eight is Enough" initiative. He collected the necessary signatures, but the Illinois Supreme Court wouldn't let it appear on the ballot.

Undaunted, Quinn launched a 2008 effort to give Illinois voters the right of recall. Perhaps learning from his term limits experience, he called for a vote on a state constitutional convention to take up this issue. A Cook County Circuit Judge tossed this latest reform measure off the ballot.

"In a state that has more than its share of crooks and people who go along to get along, Pat Quinn stands out as someone who takes on the powers-that-be," Howie Rich, chairman of U.S. Term Limits, told the Wall Street Journal.

The 1967 Bob Dylan song The Mighty Quinn tells the nursery rhyme-like story of the arrival in town of the Eskimo Quinn, who brings great and positive change. Since the lieutenant governor has arrived on the political scene he has surely made an honest effort to do that. Surely the Illinois power brokers are uncomfortable with his likely and imminent promotion. What will he try next?

"You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn," sang Dylan. Let's hope he's right.