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Governor Pat Quinn

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Governor Pat Quinn

For other people named Pat Quinn, see Pat Quinn (disambiguation).

Pat Quinn
Quinn at the Chicago Green Festival (2010)
41st Governor of Illinois
Assumed office
January 29, 2009
Lieutenant None (2009-2011)
Sheila Simon (2011-present)
Preceded by Rod Blagojevich
45th Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
In office
January 13, 2003 – January 29, 2009
Governor Rod Blagojevich
Preceded by Corinne Wood
Succeeded by Sheila Simon
Treasurer of Illinois
In office
January 14, 1991 – January 9, 1995
Governor Jim Edgar
Preceded by Jerome Cosentino
Succeeded by Judy Baar Topinka
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Quinn III
(1948-12-16) December 16, 1948 (age 65)
Hinsdale, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Executive Mansion
Alma mater Georgetown University (B.A.)
Northwestern University School of Law (J.D.)
Profession Tax attorney
Religion Roman Catholic

Patrick Joseph "Pat" Quinn III (born December 16, 1948) is the 41st and current Governor of Illinois. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He has previously held two statewide offices, Illinois Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. Quinn became Governor on January 29, 2009, after previous Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from office. Quinn was elected to a full term in office in the 2010 gubernatorial election. As governor he faced severe short-term budget shortfalls and a long-term state debt, all in the context of the worst national economic slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Quinn has pushed for spending cuts and tax increases, while trying to raise ethical standards, protect public-sector labor unions, and maintain environmental standards.

Education and personal life

Quinn's grandfather was an Irish immigrant; his father was a public relations official in the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago.[1] Born in 1948 in the affluent suburb of Hinsdale, Illinois, Quinn was a Catholic and attended the local Catholic grade school, St. Isaac Jogues.[2] He graduated in 1967 from Fenwick High School, a Catholic school in Oak Park, Illinois.[3] While a student at Fenwick, Quinn was the cross-country team captain and the sports editor of the school newspaper. Quinn went on to graduate from Georgetown University in 1971 with a bachelor's degree from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he was a student of Professor Jan Karski[4] and a sports editor for The Hoya.[5] After taking a few years off from education, he earned his Juris Doctor from Northwestern University School of Law in 1980.[6]

Quinn is divorced and has two sons, Patrick IV and David, born on April 12, 1983, and December 16, 1984, respectively. Quinn was briefly a practicing tax attorney before his career in public office.

Political activism

Before running for public office, Quinn was involved in political action, serving as an aide to Governor Daniel Walker.[3] He was first put on the political map in the late 1970s by leading a petition to amend the 1970 Illinois Constitution with the "Illinois Initiative". This amendment was intended to increase the power of public referendums in the political process and recalls for public officials.[3] The petition drive was successful, but the Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the Illinois Initiative was an "unconstitutional constitutional amendment," and thus never was presented to voters.[7]

Quinn drew more attention to his causes by holding press conferences on Sundays, seen as a slow news day.[3] While still in law school, Quinn scored his first political success in 1980, earning a reputation as a reformer on the Illinois political scene. Through his organization, "The Coalition for Political Honesty," he initiated and led the statewide campaign for the Cutback Amendment to the Illinois Constitution, ultimately reducing the size of the Illinois House of Representatives from 177 to 118 members.[7][8] This also earned him some enemies among reformers and long-time observers of the legislature, since multi-member districts and the cumulative voting system enabled insurgents to break even with machine-affiliated incumbents with the support of only half the number of voters. Challengers could ask voters for all three of their votes, while party organizations had to divide their votes among two candidates. The old system also produced some of the most effective legislators in Springfield by permitting the minority party one of three seats in each district.

Early political career

In 1982, Quinn was elected as commissioner of the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, now known as the Board of Review.[3] During this time, Quinn was instrumental in the creation of the "Citizens Utility Board", a consumer watchdog organization. He did not seek re-election in 1986, but waged an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Illinois State Treasurer, which was won by Jerome Cosentino. After this defeat, Quinn briefly served in the administration of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington as Revenue Director.[9][10]

State Treasurer

Quinn's bid for office was successful in the 1990 election. He was elected Illinois State Treasurer and served in that position from 1991 to 1995. During this period, he was publicly critical of Illinois Secretary of State and future Governor, George Ryan. Specifically, he drew attention to special vanity license plates that Ryan's office provided for clout-heavy motorists. This rivalry led Quinn to challenge Republican George Ryan in the 1994 general election for Secretary of State, unsuccessfully.[9]

Quinn then took his aspirations to the national stage. When United States Senator Paul Simon chose not to seek re-election in 1996, Quinn entered the race. However Dick Durbin won the Democratic primary and eventually the Senate seat.[11]

Quinn sought the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in 1998, but was narrowly defeated by Mary Lou Kearns. Quinn did not initially accept the count and charged fraud, but several weeks after the election he declined to ask the Illinois Supreme Court for a recount and endorsed Kearns.

In 1998, Quinn protested an increase in state legislators' salaries by urging citizens to send tea bags to the Governor, Jim Edgar. The tactic was a reference to the Boston Tea Party.[12] As Lieutenant Governor, he repeated the tactic in 2006, urging consumers to include a tea bag when paying their electricity bills, to protest rate hikes by Commonwealth Edison.[13]

Lieutenant Governor

Quinn won the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in March 2002, and subsequently won the general election on the Democratic ticket alongside gubernatorial nominee, Rod Blagojevich. In Illinois, candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Governor run in separate primary elections, but are conjoined as a single ticket for the general election.[3] This same ticket won re-election in 2006, where Quinn was unopposed in the primary.[7] While Lieutenant Governor, according to his official biography, his priorities were consumer advocacy, environmental protection, health care, broadband deployment, and veterans' affairs.[14]

On December 14, 2008, when Quinn was asked about his relationship with Blagojevich, he said, "Well, he's a bit isolated. I tried to talk to the Governor, but the last time I spoke to him was in August of 2007. I think one of the problems is the Governor did sort of seal himself off from all the statewide officials... Attorney General Madigan and myself and many others."[15] Blagojevich had announced in 2006 that Quinn was not to be considered part of his administration.[16]

Governor of Illinois

Succession and elections

On January 29, 2009, Rod Blagojevich was removed from office by a vote of 59–0 by the Illinois State Senate.[17] Quinn became Governor of Illinois.[18]

In the Democratic primary for Governor in 2010, Quinn defeated State Comptroller Daniel Hynes with 50.4% of the vote.[19] On March 27, 2010, Illinois Democratic leaders selected Sheila Simon to replace Scott Lee Cohen on the ballot, after Cohen won the February 2010 Democratic primary to be Illinois' Lieutenant Governor, but later withdrew amid controversies involving his personal life.[20] In the general election Quinn's campaign aired television ads produced by Joe Slade White that repeatedly asked the question of his opponent, "Who is this guy?"[21] Ben Nuckels was the general election Campaign Manager and was named a "Rising Star of Politics" by Campaigns & Elections magazine for his efforts with Quinn.[22]

Quinn won the general election on November 2, 2010, by a narrow margin against Republican candidate Bill Brady.[23] Quinn's victory was named by as the No. 5 General Election upset in the country; Politico said it was the 7th closest gubernatorial in American history.[24]


As governor Quinn faced a state with a reputation for corruption—the two previous governors both went to federal prison—and after two years polls showed Quinn himself was the "Nation's most unpopular governor."[25] The main issue was a fiscal crisis in meeting the state's budget and its long-term debt as the national economic slump continued and Illinois did poorly in terms of creating jobs. Quinn spoke often to the public and met regularly with state leaders, in stark contrast to Rod Blagojevich's seclusion from others.

Budget, debt and taxes

Quinn announced several "belt-tightening" programs to help curb the state deficit. In July 2009, Quinn signed a $29 billion capital bill to provide construction and repair funds for Illinois roads, mass transit, schools, and other public works projects. The capital bill, known as "Illinois Jobs Now!", was the first since Governor George H. Ryan's Illinois FIRST plan, which was enacted in the late-1990s.[26] On July 7, 2009, he for the second time in a week vetoed a budget bill, calling it "out of balance", his plan being to more significantly fix the budget gap in Illinois.[27] In March 2009, Quinn called for a 1.5 percentage point increase in the personal income tax rate. To help offset the increased rate, he also sought to triple the amount shielded from taxation (or the "personal exemption") – from $2,000 per person to $6,000.[28] However, the bill that eventually passed increased the personal income tax by 2%.

With the state budget deficit projected to hit $15 billion in 2011, the legislature in early 2011 raised the personal income tax from 3% to 5%, and the corporation profits tax 4.8% to 7%. Governor Quinn's office projected the new taxes will generate $6.8 billion a year, enough to balance the annual budget and begin reducing the state's backlog of about $8.5 billion in unpaid bills.[29] A report from the Civic Federation in September 2011 projected a $8.3 billion deficit to end the budget year.[30] The Illinois Policy Institute has calculated that the tax hike will cost the average Illinois household one week's pay.[31]

After three years of tax increases for workers and businesses, ending with an increase in corporate taxes in 2011 from 7.3% to 9.5%, the national recession left the economy in trouble. During an annual budget address on February 22, 2012 to the Illinois Legislature, Quinn warned that the state's financial system was nearing collapse.[32][33] The Associated Press reported that Quinn feared Illinois was "on the verge of a financial meltdown because of pension systems eating up every new dollar and health care costs climbing through the roof."[34] According to the Civic Federation, Illinois is only able to remain solvent by not paying its bills on time.[33] Quinn advocated Medicaid and healthcare cuts totaling $1.6 billion in 2012; critics including Democratic State Representative Mary E. Flowers stated the cuts would remove hundreds of thousands of the poor and elderly from public health programs.[35] The unprecedented cuts were too small to resolve the long-term issue according to rating agencies that downgraded Illinois to the lowest credit rating of any US state in 2012. As of November 2012, unpaid pension obligations totaled $85 billion with a backlog of $8 billion.[36]

In an effort to reduce the state's financial obligations, in November 2012 Quinn cancelled contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Union officials contended that "Quinn wanted concessions so deep that they are an insult to every state employee," while the administration contended that the state is paying salaries and benefits at levels that "exceed the salaries and benefits of other unionized state workers across the country."[36] As of December 2012, Illinois had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the United States, and by March 2013, Illinois public-employee pension liability reached $100 billion.[37][38]

Ethics reform

On January 5, 2009, Quinn appointed Patrick M. Collins to chair the Illinois Reform Commission, which was tasked with making recommendations for ethical reform for Illinois government.[39][40]

On February 20, 2009, Quinn called for the resignation of US Senator Roland Burris, the man appointed to the United States Senate by Blagojevich to fill the vacant seat created by the resignation of Barack Obama. He changed his position, however, following pressure from prominent African Americans who threatened electoral repercussions.[41]

On March 3, 2009, the Associated Press reported that Quinn had "paid his own expenses" many times as Lieutenant Governor, contradicting Blagojevich's accusations against Quinn.[42][43] As a rule, he either paid his own way, or stayed at "cut rate hotels" (such as Super 8), and never charged the state for his meals.[43][44]

In June, Quinn launched a panel, chaired by Abner Mikva, to investigate unethical practices at the University of Illinois amid fears that the prior investigation would have no clout. The panel is charged with searching the admissions practices, amid reports that the public university is a victim of Illinois corruption.[45]

Environment and energy

Quinn has generally won high praise for his leadership on environmental issues, going back at least as far as when he was Lieutenant Governor, where he helped develop annual statewide conferences on green building, created a state day to celebrate and defend rivers,[46] and promoted measures such as rain gardens for water conservation. As governor, Quinn helped pass measures on solar and wind energy,[47] including sourcing electricity for the state capitol from wind power, and helped secure funding for high-speed rail in the midwest corridor. In the 2010 primary, the Sierra Club, Illinois's largest environmental group, endorsed Quinn, calling him "The Green Governor."[48]

Community service

On May 17, 2012, Quinn appointed Brandon Bodor to be Executive Director of the Serve Illinois Commission. On September 11, 2012, the two announced that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) had awarded $8.4 million to enable 1,200 volunteers in 29 AmeriCorps programs to better serve Illinois communities.[49]

Death penalty

On March 9, 2011, Quinn signed the bill which abolished the death penalty in Illinois.[50] On signing the bill, Quinn stated,

"It is impossible to create a perfect system, one that is free of all mistakes, free of all discrimination with respect to race or economic circumstance or geography. To have a consistent, perfect death penalty system, I have concluded, after looking at everything I’ve been given, that that’s impossible in our state. I think it’s the right and just thing to abolish the death penalty."[51]

Electoral history


Further reading

  • Barone, Michael, and Chuck McCutcheon, The Almanac of American Politics: 2012 (2011) pp 512–14

External links

  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn official state site
  • Quinn for Illinois official campaign site
  • GovernorQuinn YouTube channel
  • National Governors Association
  • Project Vote Smart
  • Ballotpedia
  • Notable Names Database
  • On the Issues
  • Financial information at the National Institute for Money
  • C-SPAN programs
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Bloomberg News
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
Political offices
Preceded by
Jerome Cosentino
Treasurer of Illinois
Succeeded by
Judy Topinka
Preceded by
Corinne Wood
Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
Sheila Simon
Preceded by
Rod Blagojevich
Governor of Illinois
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rod Blagojevich
Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois
Most recent
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joe Biden
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Illinois
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise John Boehner
as Speaker of the House of Representatives
Preceded by
Phil Bryant
as Governor of Mississippi
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Illinois
Succeeded by
Robert Bentley
as Governor of Alabama

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