Gov. Quinn taps Paul Vallas as running mate, surprising Illinois pols

November 8, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Illinois pols were stunned by the governor's choice. His running mate has been on the road for the past decade fixing public school systems and has never held elective office.

The press began the job at midday printing thousands of blank nominating petitions for Governor Pat Quinn, all with a surprise choice for lieutenant governor.

"He was on nobody's list obviously, except Pat Quinn's," said Tom Bowen, political consultant, Mac Strategies.

The 60-year-old Vallas ran unsuccessfully for Illinois governor in the 2002 Democratic primary, and considered running as a Republican for Cook County Board President in 2010.

"Whoever is going to take on the challenge is going to have to be willing to do it and is going to have to be willing to leave his or her political ambition at the door," said Paul Vallas, in 2009.

The Chicago Public Schools CEO from 1995 to 2001, Vallas also led school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and currently in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He never gave up his residence in southwest suburban Palos Heights and it always has been between jobs that he's run or considered runs for public office in Illinois.

"Of all the Lieutenant Governor picks I think he's probably the most qualified," said Bowen.

Political consultant Tom Bowen is the former campaign manager for one-time Quinn primary opponent Bill Daley. He says Vallas would have appeal in the Chicago suburbs where he ran well in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor.

"This is a pick clearly aimed at independents, probably the suburbs more than anything else. This isn't a pick that the base is going to be very excited about," said Bowen.

In a statement, the governor recalled Vallas' tenure as CPS CEO under Mayor Richard M. Daley calling his running mate: "an independent problem solver with a proven record of reform."

But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis wrote of Vallas: "His choice takes us in the wrong direction for public education," adding "his policies continue to devastate our schools."

Quinn's choice was leaked before the governor could talk to city treasurer Stephanie Neely, who was interviewed by Quinn weeks ago. She says the governor tried to call her this morning and the two could not connect. So, she found out from reporters that she did not get the job.

"The governor just said call me back when you get a chance. (And you haven't called him back?) I called him back and he was in a meeting," said Stephanie Neely, Chicago treasurer. "Life is not as smooth as we'd like it to be. I wouldn't say that it's awkward, I'd say that it's just sort of life. I'm 50 years old, I go through ups and downs. It's okay."

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon responded to the announcement in a written statement on Friday: "I offer my best wishes to Governor Quinn on naming Paul Vallas his running mate. When Governor Quinn asked me to serve as Lieutenant Governor he cited my commitment to reform, transparency, and good government. In Paul Vallas, Governor Quinn has found someone who shares his vision for greater opportunities for the children of the State of Illinois. Like Governor Quinn, Paul Vallas has a history of seeking creative solutions to overcome difficult challenges. He and Governor Quinn will make a great team."

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said Friday in a written statement: "Paul has a proven track record of not only protecting our kids and ensuring that they have the opportunities to succeed in life, but also protecting our tax dollars. Paul's budget and education experiences make him an outstanding choice and I am confident that he will be an outstanding Lt. Governor."

Vallas, who was unavailable for comment from Connecticut, will wrap up his work there where he submitted his resignation earlier on Friday.

In 2002, Vallas finished a close second to Rod Blagojevich based on his strong showing in the Cook suburbs and collar counties. That's where the governor might be trying to shore up his support at year from now.

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