As Democrats concluded their day at the Illinois State Fair Wednesday, ominous storm clouds loomed on the horizon. They hope it is not an omen.
As Democrats concluded their day at the Illinois State Fair Wednesday, ominous storm clouds loomed on the horizon.
They hope it is not an omen.
As always, when the party faithful gather in Springfield for the fair, they try to put on a face of party unity. It was particularly true this year for a party that booted its own governor, Rod Blagojevich, out of office in January.
But signs of potential cracks are appearing already, with Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is seeking Quinn's job, taking swipes at each other.
Quinn said he's never heard Hynes take a position on an income tax increase, something Quinn said is needed to solve the state's financial calamity.
"You can stand on the sidelines and throw bricks at the guy in the middle of the arena," Quinn said. "Part of the job of governor is not to be a shrinking violet, to take positions and defend those positions."
"This nomination must be earned, not bequeathed, assigned or transferred," Hynes told a large gathering of Democratic party officials at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. "We need a leader who will offer a clear, consistent and compelling vision for our future."
Quinn's been accused of frequently changing his mind about budget cuts and other issues during the spring session. Quinn also spoke at the Crowne Plaza, praising several Democratic office holders, but not Hynes.
Hynes did not attend the traditional rally at the fairgrounds, saying the day – known as Governor's Day – should be reserved for Quinn.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is also the state chairman of the Democratic Party. He downplayed the potential divisiveness of a primary battle for the governor's office.
"Primaries are always good for political parties," Madigan said. "American political parties are pretty good at coming back together against the common enemy."
Madigan said the party will not endorse one candidate over another in the primary campaign. However, Madigan said he supports Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, in his bid for lieutenant governor. Turner is one of at least six announced or possible candidates for the post. He is a member of Madigan's leadership team in the House.
Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said he doesn't anticipate any lasting divisions from a primary campaign for governor.
"I don't think we'll have a lot of infighting," said Mautino, Bureau County Democratic Party chairman. "I've got some people who want to work for (Hynes). I told them to go work for him. I’ll work for (Quinn)."
Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, was one of Blagojevich's few allies in the House. He said the potential for divisiveness depends on the tone of the campaign.
"If it stays on the issues, it can be positive," Hoffman said. "If it gets down to name calling and finger-pointing, it can be very detrimental to the general election chances."
Iowa Gov. Chet Culver was the keynote speaker at the Crowne Plaza event. He said Democrats need to focus on making Republicans the "party of nope."
"Let's be proud that we are the party that stands for something," Culver said.
Ryan Keith contributed to this report. Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.