Watch CBSN Live

New Illinois Governor Has Crusader Cred

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was schooled in the politics of the Chicago machine, but his successor's career has been built on grass-roots organizing to cut government and protect the little guy.

Pat Quinn became the state's chief executive Thursday after the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to remove his scandal-ridden predecessor. The decision immediately elevated Quinn from lieutenant governor, where he had served for two terms under Blagojevich.

Quinn took the oath of office from state Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in the lieutenant governor's office shortly after Blagojevich was booted from office. He later signed the oath in the House.

"The ordeal is over," Quinn declared to lawmakers.

Quinn and Blagojevich campaigned on the same ticket, but the two Democrats had little in common.

Blagojevich rose through the infamous Chicago machine while Quinn began his career crusading against utility companies and organizing petition drives, including one that cut the size of the Illinois House by one-third - putting dozens of politicians out of work.

The 60-year-old former state treasurer and tax attorney now must turn his attention to serious problems facing the state's 12 million residents, including a budget deficit of more than $3 billion.

Quinn has been the state's No. 2 executive since 2002, but the lieutenant governor's office is one with few official duties. Quinn will probably enter office with some goodwill from lawmakers who have spent years sparring with Blagojevich.

"I think he's regarded as being honest and in that way a very refreshing change from Blagojevich," said Cindi Canary, head of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

In Illinois, governor candidates do not pick their running mates. Lieutenant governor candidates run separately in party primaries, and the two run together in the general election.

Blagojevich and Quinn were not close, and Quinn says they have not spoken in more than a year. He once backed an amendment to recall constitutional officers that was clearly aimed at the governor.

And he repeatedly called on Blagojevich to quit after the governor's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell off President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Last year in a radio interview, Blagojevich said Quinn was not even part of the administration.

The two men were more cordial in 2002 when they took over for GOP Gov. George Ryan, who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption. Both Democrats cast themselves as fix-it men.

"This election is a mandate for reform from top to bottom," Quinn said on election night in 2002. "We are going to replace a government of deals with a government of ideals."

As lieutenant governor, Quinn became a vocal advocate for veterans. He helped start a relief fund for military families, pushed for better health care benefits and made a point of attending funerals for Illinois service members.

Quinn, who once hiked nearly 170 miles across the state with his elderly doctor to promote universal health care, said his passion is in grass-roots organizing.

"I think that's really actually more my interest in life than anything," Quinn said.

House members once greeted him in their chamber with a chorus of boos following his successful effort in 1980 to reduce the chamber's size to 118 members.

Three years later, he helped create the consumer watchdog group Citizens Utility Board, which filed a landmark lawsuit against Commonwealth Edison Co. that produced $1.3 billion in consumer refunds.

Quinn was also the state treasurer from 1991 to 1995 and unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1996.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue