Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas as his Democratic running mate for next year's election.
Vallas, an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 against Rod Blagojevich, fills the vacancy on the ticket left by incumbent Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's decision to run for state comptroller next year.
A new state law requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team before nominating petitions can be filed. Petition filing begins later this month.
"I've known Paul Vallas for 30 years and he's never been shy about fighting for education, reform and opportunities for working people," Quinn said in a statement. "We have made great progress these last few years, but serious challenges remain and our mission is not yet accomplished."
Quinn called Vallas "an independent problem solver with a proven record of reform."
Vallas said he was "honored to join forces with the strongest reform governor in the country."
After leaving CPS, Vallas headed public schools in Philadelphia, New Orleans and, most recently, Bridgeport, Conn. A Connecticut judge has ruled that Vallas did not hold the proper qualifications to be superintendent of the state's largest school system.
There also may be questions about Vallas' eligibility to run here. The state constitution requires statewide candidates to be Illinois residents for at least three years before the election. Voting records, however, indicate Vallas has been registered to vote from an address in Palos Heights since 2008. Vallas requested a 2010 Republican primary ballot, but did not actually vote, according to the Cook County Clerk's office.
In 2005, Vallas toyed with making another run against Blagojevich in the next year’s Democratic primary for governor. But a Cook County circuit court judge rejected Vallas’ attempt to declare him having met the residency requirement, saying it was premature. The ruling effectively ended another Vallas run because of a possible challenge to his residency and fears that signing voter registration and statements of candidacy without a clear legal grant of residency could open the door to prosecution under perjury statute.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor met with a handful of potential candidates, but ultimately decided on Vallas because of his strong record as a reformer.
"The governor takes the mission of reforming Illinois very seriously, and he wanted someone who would take on the status quo and do the right thing even when it's not politically expedient," Anderson said. "He has the ability and experience to make Illinois a better state."
Quinn is scheduled to begin circulating petitions for the ticket on Saturday, and he and Vallas are expected to make their first public appearance together early next week. A more formal campaign kickoff will follow within the next several weeks.
Quinn had discussions with at least one African-American candidate, City Treasurer Stephanie Neely. Choosing a black running mate was thought to be a way for Quinn to solidify his support among African-American voters. The governor chose another route, however.
Some African-American aldermen, who typically double as Democratic committeemen in their wards, expressed disappointment about the pick, raising questions of how committed they will be to getting out the vote in the general election a year from now.
Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, said she was “disappointed that the lieutenant governor selection was not an African American, given that he had spent time talking to (city Treasurer) Stephanie Neely and (state Sen.) Kwame Raoul. I’m surprised to hear that Vallas is the selected candidate. Where did that come from? It’s sort of out of left field.”
“I never think you can take the African American community for granted,” she said when asked whether Quinn figures he has the black vote locked up in the general election with or without an African American running mate. “It remains to be seen how people feel about this.”
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, in contrast, said he was fine with the choice, even if some of his colleagues were not.
“Some elected African-American officials are going to be disappointed, but I think Paul Vallas was sensitive to our community when he was over at the Board of Education — making sure kids get eyeglasses, making sure they get a good education, building schools, making schools safer. He showed that he really cared. And he did not only here in Chicago, he did it all over the country. He predominantly worked for African American causes. . . . Overall I think it’s a plus.”
Burnett said he could understand the disappointment of many colleagues in Quinn’s failure to pick an African-American candidate.
“We were expecting it, and it was being entertained, so we thought it was going to happen,” Burnett said. “But Paul Vallas is not a bad choice. He comes out of left field, but Paul Vallas showed his commitment to the African-American community a long time ago. He worked for the schools. . . . His heart is in the right place. But I think it is smart of the governor to get somebody who has a fiscal management brain, like Paul Vallas. Paul Vallas balanced many budgets with the city of Chicago. So I think it’s a good choice.”
Burnett also suggested Vallas was picked as a way to counter an Republican claims that Quinn was not up to the fiscal management of the state. “I think he just check-mated them on that, because I don’t think you can get anyone who is more of a fiscal manager than a Paul Vallas. So I think he just check-mated the Republicans.”
Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, said she was disappointed and suggested she might not be as motivated when it comes to marshalling the troops in her ward come election time.
“We should have had some sort of forewarning that this was another individual on the short list,” Austin said. “But to say nothing?”
“I’m upset with my governor now, yes I am,” she said. “How did they get off the short list. . . . He’s got to tell us why he wrote them off his short list. . . . On his short list, you had a state senator, you has a former state representative (Ald. Will Burns, 4th), you had our city treasurer, all African Americans. You had qualified African Americans on your short list.”
“I can speak for 34, and it ain’t lookin’ good,” she said of the potential support from her ward organization.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun