Quinn picks Sheila Simon for lt gov

March 26, 2010 5:16:17 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn says he wants Sheila Simon, the daughter of the late Illinois senator Paul Simon, to take the lieutenant governor's spot on the Democratic ticket. But the final decision is up to the state's Democratic State Central Committee, and there are other contenders.

The governor confirmed Friday afternoon what was leaked the night before: that 49-year-old Southern Illinois University professor Sheila Simon Quinn's choice for a running mate.

"It's important to have a ticket that has, I think, geographic balance, gender balance but most importantly, someone whose heart is with everyday people," said Quinn.

"I'm pleased, I'm honored that the governor has made me his preference and pleased that he would say those kind things about me," said Simon.

But while Democratic State Central Committee members also speak highly of Simon, the most influential committeemen and women from the city and Chicago suburbs say they will vote for state representative Art Turner, who finished second to Scott Lee Cohen in the February primary.

"On first ballot, I am supporting Art Turner. He's a good candidate. He knows state government," said Ald. Ricky Munoz, Democratic central committee member.

Simon is the daughter of the late US Senator Paul Simon who served at one time as lieutenant governor. Sheila was a Carbondale City Council member who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of that city.

"I really think I learned more from that election than I lost. I learned to be ready to play hard," said Simon.

Representative Turner is playing hardball now. He has busloads of demonstrators traveling to Springfield Saturday and the continued support of a most powerful Democrat, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"He decided to leave the General Assembly, his career and run. And you have to give him credit for that," said Daley.

"I suppose that if Art Turner withdrew that would make things easier. I don't know if he would do that. He has a legitimate claim," said Dick Simpson, UIC political science professor.

But Quinn says Turner's second place finish earned him no standing in the process to be completed Saturday.

"The way primaries work is the one who finishes first is the winner. Everyone else goes home. When it's over, it's over," said Quinn.

In all, 17 finalists will appear before the committee Saturday morning in Springfield. There will be as many votes as needed until the nominee has 50 percent plus one. If neither Art Turner nor Sheila Simon can get a majority after the first vote. It's possible a compromise candidate could emerge.

ABC7 will bring you coverage from Springfield on Saturday's news at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Statement from Steve Brown, spokesman for Michael Madigan, head of the Illinois Democratic Party and a member of the state central committee:

"Mike is continuing to work with members of the committee, the governor and Senator Cullerton to field the strongest candidate. He has not mentioned specific candidates."