Pat Quinn looks back on 2013; Illinois governor sits down with ABC7 Eyewitness News' Charles Thomas

December 20, 2013 (CHICAGO)

What a difference six months can make. Pat Quinn's political and legislative success during the year's second half has re-energized the governor and his Illinois Democratic Party.

"My job is to work and get things accomplished," Quinn said.

A self-described "relentless optimist", Governor Quinn admits the first half of 2013 was difficult.

The legislature was bogged down on pension reform and would not take a vote on gay marriage. Illinois' unemployment rate was over nine per cent and three high-profile democrats publicly considered 2014 primary challenges to their party's incumbent.

"Not to have everybody cheering for you is not easy," he said. "You don't ever like that but I believed in what we were doing and I believe in our grassroots movement."

Then the governor made a play for pension reform. He vetoed lawmaker salaries and refused to accept his own.

"For five months I didn't get paid but we worked together and put together a bi-partisan agreement," he said.

Other wins claimed by Quinn during the year's second half included gay marriage, the Illiana Expressway project and the decision by Archer Daniels Midland to keep its headquarters in Illinois without tax breaks. And during the same months, the state's unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point.

"We've had seven straight months of job creation and more to come," the governor said.

"He is a very smart politician," said Paul Greene, Roosevelt University. "He's caught some breaks but he's also taken advantage of them. And he's looking a lot better today than he was a year ago."

"Governor Quinn's been luckier the last six months than he was the first six months," said Senator Kirk Dillard.

Dillard, a Republican candidate for governor, says Quinn remains vulnerable on the jobs issue.

"Illinois' unemployment rate went down a little bit recently," Dillard said. "It's still highest in the Midwest."

Whichever candidate should win the Republican primary, Democrat Quinn has a general election issue already in the waiting. He wants to raise the state's minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour.

"The four Republicans who are running for governor they're all against raising the minimum wage," Quinn said. "But, you know, what kind of value is that?"

The governor is opposed by former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman in the Democratic Primary. But Quinn is paying virtually no attention to the political novice.

The governor is saving his money and political wherewithal for the Republican candidate to be nominated in March.

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