Former Ill. AG joins gov's race

November 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) Ryan has faced many personal challenges since leaving politics after losing to Rod Blagojevich in 2002.

Ryan is leaving his professorship at Benedictine University and his role as one of the Illinois Republican party's elder statesmen to join the field of now seven GOP candidates for governor.

"I think I have the best chance to win. I have the most experience in governor and am the only one to have held statewide office," said Ryan.

He is older, thinner, and he says wiser than the politician who won his first election as DuPage County state's attorney 25 years ago. Now 63 years old and cancer free for nearly a decade, the former Illinois attorney general is running again for governor.

"I've sent a lot of people to prison who richly deserved it," said Ryan.

In 2002, over one and a half million people voted for Ryan in the general election for governor which he lost to Rod Blagojevich. Opponent Bob Schillerstrom says Ryan's time has come and gone.

"What we need to do in this election is look to the future," said Schillerstrom.

Ryans supporters cite an internal poll showing that on Wednesday, the former attorney general's name recognition is higher by over 20 points than any other candidate for the 2010 republican nomination. Opponent Kirk Dillard says his internal polls show him leading Ryan.

"I'm not worried about running against Jim Ryan," said Dillard.

"Kirk Dillard is a nice fellow. He's got good government experience. Does he have the same experience I have? No," said Ryan.

A potential problem for Ryan is his longtime former friend Stuart Levine who has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges including several schemes with Tony Rezko. Levine, a self-described career criminal, gave the former prosecutor and attorney general nearly $800,000 in campaign contributions spanning three decades.

"I didn't do anything for him. I didn't do anything for Stu Levine," said Ryan.

Since Ryan won his first election in 1984, he has battled cancer, the illness and recovery of his wife, the death by illness of one child and the suicide of another.

Now a professor at Benedictine University, he says the tragedies of his life will make him an even better public servant.

"It shows you what things are important. I know what's important now. I thought I did. Maybe I did but I really know what's important now," said Ryan.

Ryan opened his campaign office in Elmhurst this week. He'll have the difficult job of trying to re-assemble a statewide campaign organization. He's depending on the memories and good will of a lot of old friends from seven years ago.

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