The Daley family Chicago political dynasty has never produced a governor, but that may soon change if former US Commerce secretary Bill Daley realizes his new quest. Announcing via video the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee, Daley, son of former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of ex-mayor Richard M. Daley, will almost certainly challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
There has been little doubt that the unpopular Quinn would be in a difficult position for renomination, let alone re-election. Most of the attention, however, has been focused upon Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is expected to make the race in 2014 after shying away from a similar challenge in 2010. A three-way contest among Quinn, Madigan, and Daley could produce unexpected results.
The move to run for governor is out of character for Daley in several ways. First, challenging a Democratic opponent is an unusual act for a man who has exemplified party unity throughout his entire political career. Daley is a former US Commerce secretary for President Clinton, chairman of Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, and an ex-chief of staff for President Barack Obama. He also spent time in the banking industry and as a law firm partner.
His video message is interesting in that it clearly reveals his political strategy. Obviously the product of extensive survey research of the Democratic voting base, Daley stressed three key issue points in his opening message. Public employee pension abuse, which began the state’s economic downfall with a vengeance in now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, leads Daley’s talking points, but that is closely followed by a mention of what he terms “marriage equality” and gun control.
The strategy is interesting and a different tack for Daley who traditionally attempted to position himself as a more pro-business Democrat. Clearly Daley and his political brain trust perceive that a sizable vacuum exists among the most left-wing Illinois Democratic primary voters. This explains the emphasis on social issues such as gay marriage and gun control, making it clear that Daley and his crew believe they can wrest away the liberal base from Quinn and Madigan.
Though Daley may want to sell this new image, it is another question as to whether their intended targets will buy the message. As the man who was brought into the Clinton Administration to quarterback ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an anathema to organized labor, it makes Daley an unlikely champion for his new issue agenda.
There is no doubt that Gov. Quinn is in trouble and may very well be denied renomination. The fact that a three-way election could be in the offing greatly changes the equation. Such a configuration usually helps an embattled incumbent but, in this case, it is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion so early in the election cycle.
Republicans are also going to mount a challenge here, particularly if an embattled Quinn successfully negotiates the nomination process. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner are already announced candidates. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, who lost a razor-thin GOP gubernatorial primary race in 2010 (falling 193 votes behind fellow state Sen. Bill Brady), is a likely candidate.
The eventual Daley entry into this race adds even more intrigue to what already promises to be a gut-wrenching campaign.