Quinn speaks out about running mate, budget

February 19, 2010 3:29:47 PM PST
Gov. Pat Quinn is celebrating Black History Month by honoring a Chicago restaurant owner known throughout the state. Other state and local officials joined the governor at Edna's restaurant in proclaiming Friday Edna Stewart Day in Illinois.

Quinn commended Stewart for devoting over four decades to not only serving delicious soul food, but for also giving a second chance to those in need.

Over the years, Stewart has given provided a job to more than 100 former prisoners.

Despite the day's activities, Gov. Pat Quinn faced two big unresolved issues Friday night: who will be his running mate in November and what to do about the state's budget crisis?

Quinn talked about both issues Friday.

The governor had gone nearly an entire week without answering questions about his party's search for a lieutenant governor candidate and the state's worsening budget crisis.

So, when he made himself available Friday morning, the press could hardly wait for the news conference.

After he honored Edna Stewart, the governor acknowledged that he had talked with Tammy Duckworth about running for lieutenant governor on the fall Democratic ticket.

"In the course of visiting with her, I said that I thought if was interested and wanted to bring her name forward to let us know promptly," Quinn said.

Duckworth is the former Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs during combat in Iraq. She was appointed last year by Pres. Barack Obama to a top job in the federal Veterans Administration.

State Rep. Art Turner, who finished second to resigned primary winner Scott Lee Cohen, still wants the job and cannot understand why the governor would look elsewhere.

"I'm not clear where he is coming from, and everybody wants to open up the process, and it is amazing how the rule change as we move along," said Turner.

The event at Edna's marked the governor's first public appearance in nearly a week and the first opportunity for reporters to ask questions since the legislature granted Quinn's request to delay his budget speech until March 10. Quinn said he wanted more time so that state taxpayers could submit their concerns online.

"We're going to have, beginning on February 24, the online opportunity for the people of opportunity to give us their concepts and ideas," Quinn said.

Powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan put a crimp in Quinn's plan for a tax increase when he said last week that one might not be necessary, despite the state's reported $13 billion deficit.

Republican Sen. Bill Brady, Quinn's likely November opponent, questioned the governor's decision-making and leadership.

"Governor Quinn is a rudderless ship, and he has had plenty of time to deal with it and still needed a 10-day delay," said State Sen. Bill Brady.

But Quinn supporters rushed to the governor's defense, calling the conservative Brady unelectable.

"He is as far to the right as you can get. You don't' get any crazier than Bill Brady when it comes to right wing politics," said Democratic State Sen. Ricky Hendon of Chicago.

"I think Illinois is ready for a center-right governor to take care of this fiscal mess the Chicago Democrats have put us in," said Brady, who is the presumptive Republican nominee.

At last report, Brady was leading Sen. Kirk Dillard by about 250 votes in the primary election. Dillard still has not conceded.