Saturday, November 9, 2013

Quinn picking Vallas not really a shock

I’ll confess to being surprised when I heard Friday morning that it was the name “Paul Vallas” that would wind up appearing on the ballot for Democratic lieutenant governor nominee in next year’s state election cycle.

VALLAS: A political comeback?
Not that I should have been. Vallas, the one-time head of the Chicago Public Schools, has always been good for tossing out hints he’d like to be part of the local political system – even though he’s never held electoral office and was the guy who got beat by Rod Blagojevich back in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor.

SO THE IDEA that Vallas would be willing to move back to metro Chicago (he’s a native of suburban Crestwood, and still has family living in the area) isn’t odd.

There’s also the fact that Quinn doesn’t seem capable of getting any conventional choices to run along with him come 2014.

The BIG names that have been tossed about are state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and city Treasurer Stephanie Neely – both of whom have said they’re not interested. The general theory amongst political observers was that Quinn would want a black person paired up with him to appeal to the city’s and south suburban significant African-American vote.

But it honestly would not surprise me to learn that NOBODY of any significance currently in the city’s political structure wanted to be paired up with Quinn.

NOT SO MUCH because nobody wants their name associated too closely with Quinn. But because the post itself is one with no real duties – other than what Quinn wants done with it.

And it is the post that has a small circle of people who are outspoken in their belief that it should be abolished – just let the state attorney general be promoted to governor in the event that succession is needed!

QUINN: Does mid-90s CPS glory bolster gov?
So Quinn was going to have to come up with a politically oddball choice. Vallas probably is amongst the most conventional oddball he could possibly find.

What should we think?

I’M SURE SOME people are going to try to attack Vallas (and Quinn, by association) on the grounds that he doesn’t live in Illinois any longer. State law does say a candidate for statewide office must have lived in the state at least three years prior to the election in question.

And Vallas has made a national name for himself for the number of public school districts he has tried to reform – including Philadelphia and New Orleans, but most recently Bridgeport, Conn. Although that school board is loaded with people who are looking for excuses to dump him.

Which may mean Vallas is soon unemployed – and in need of a new job. Lieutenant governor, anyone?

The critics in Illinois will bash Vallas’ residency by claiming he doesn’t live here anymore. But it seems he never gave up his voter registration (and he does still have family living in the area).

HE ACTUALLY CAST ballots in the last two election cycles, as he kept a voter registration in suburban Palos Heights. Which won’t be enough to appease the ideologues. It makes me wonder if they’re already trying to hire election law expert Burt Odelson to represent their case in court. Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner is already saying Quinn is “running scared” by picking Paul.

But just as Odelson’s legal battle against Mayor Rahm Emanuel ultimately failed because the election residency laws are not as firm as some want to think, it may turn out to be the same for Vallas.

He gets to stay an Illinois resident for political purposes because he never gave up his registration. Now if someone could show he also was voting in other states’ elections, it would be a different issue. But I haven’t heard anyone make that allegation.

Although the Capitol Fax newsletter reported that Illinois State Board of Elections officials were saying the change in law that makes governors pick a running mate prior to the primary means everything may change. “There’s no way to determine an outcome of a scenario” like that, board Chairman Rupert Borgsmiller told the newsletter.

I DON’T KNOW how much Vallas really helps Quinn – he couldn’t even beat Blagojevich, who supposedly was the candidate in that 11-year-old election cycle who appealed to Democrats who lived outside of Chicago.

Vallas was regarded as “too Chicago” for Illinois to accept. Then again, Quinn gets hit with the same claim. If anything, this may bolster the Quinn/Vallas Chicago support to the point where it overcomes the vote from the rural parts of Illinois that definitely will favor a Republican challenger.

Which means Quinn has nothing to lose. And Vallas has everything to gain if the Democratic “top of the ticket” winds up prevailing against whichever candidate the Republicans pick to go for governor – an office they used to “own” (for 26 years, from James R. Thompson through George Ryan) until 2002.

If anything, the fact that Vallas contemplated in 2010 a Cook County Board president run as a Republican might hurt him more. Or at least make him look ridiculous. Although the fact that he never actually ran makes it like more of a tawdry rumor than anything else.


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