Cook County’s top Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn for re-election Friday in a repudiation of the primary challenge offered by an absent Bill Daley, the son and brother of two former mayors.
Party leaders in the state’s most powerful Democratic county also narrowly rebuffed efforts by 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin to win endorsement for state treasurer over heavily favored state Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign. After the loss, Ervin agreed to back Frerichs.
Though Quinn’s endorsement by county Democratic slatemakers wasn’t surprising, the totality of its backing was. Some Democratic officials had expected a hefty number of votes to not endorse a candidate for governor in favor of an open primary contest — particularly while state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago ponders whether to become the lone African-American candidate in the campaign.
Like Daley, Raoul also did not appear at the gathering of 50 Chicago ward and 30 suburban township Democratic committeemen or their surrogates.
John Daley, Bill Daley’s brother and 11th Ward committeeman, said a Raoul candidacy could end up helping his brother’s challenge to Quinn — reflecting a widely held belief that it could strip Quinn of support from black voters. John Daley quickly added that a Raoul candidacy was the senator’s “decision to make” and there is no effort by Bill Daley’s campaign to get him in the contest.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley did not win slating in his successful 1980 bid for state’s attorney, noted John Daley, a Cook County commissioner.
“In the end, the voters of this state will decide who is the next governor and I believe Bill will be a strong candidate, bringing his case to the people of the state,” said John Daley, who added that the county Democratic endorsement of Quinn had been viewed as a foregone conclusion.
Quinn, who launched his public career as an outsider more than three decades ago railing at political insiders, said the slatemakers are part of the grassroots politics that he advocates.
“People here go door to door, they knock on doors, they make phone calls, they turned out the vote. That’s how I won the election in 2010,” said Quinn, who won four of the state’s 102 counties — led by Cook County — in narrowly defeating Republican state Sen. Bill Brady.
“There are lots and lots of volunteers who are in these organizations and they believe in the cause, they believe in President (Barack) Obama as I do,” Quinn added.
Invoking the name of Obama, the home state president from Kenwood, became a constant theme among the Democratic contenders, hoping the linkage could help generate turnout in a non-presidential election. Obama’s name atop the ticket in 2012 and some beneficially drawn new districts helped Democrats gain congressional seats and veto-proof majorities in the Illinois House and Senate.
“He is our president. He’s from here in Illinois and I know he wants to see Democrats elected and we’re going to strive to do it,” said Joe Berrios, the county assessor who also is chairman of the county Democratic Party.
Down ballot, Frerichs, in his seventh year as a state lawmaker, found his anticipated endorsement challenged by Ervin, a West Side alderman. Frerichs narrowly got the backing of a subcommittee charged to recommend candidates to the full panel of slatemakers, though many African-American committeemen, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, initially backed Ervin.
“I feel confident that the Democratic Party is going to present a slate that has ethnic, gender, racial and geographical diversity,” said Frerichs, who noted the contenders for governor have yet to pick their running mates under a new state law that requires them to run as a team in the March 2014 primary.