We’re having a hard time getting a bearing on the travels and behavior of Gov. Pat Quinn.
On one hand, the governor recently came to Southern Illinois to address the drought’s impact on agri-culture. His previously publicized news conference was suddenly moved from a Waltonville farmstead to a field miles away, with local police monitoring the entrance.
The popular belief is that Quinn was looking to avoid protesters, particularly from unionized prison guards, their families and supporters. His closure of several prisons and other correctional facilities, including the supermax prison at Tamms, has — to put it mildly — not gone over well in Southern Illinois, nor with the biggest of unions involved, the American Federation of State, County and Munici-pal Employees.
Quinn’s office is in a running battle with Illinois Statehouse News about documentation of the decision to move the event. So far, the governor’s office has released next to nothing.
Fast forward a bit, and Quinn is jumping into a fray between union-represented Caterpillar employees and the company. He in fact visited striking workers represented by International Machinists and Aero-space Workers, offering his moral support and a $10,000 check from his campaign fund to the workers’ food fund.
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Quinn has previously been reminded by Caterpillar, the world’s largest heavy equipment maker and headquartered in Peoria, that other states would welcome it. Caterpillar management also has not been mum on what it considers a poor business environment in Illinois.
“When people are united, they can’t be defeated,” Quinn told about 100 picketers at Cat’s plant in Joliet.
Well, that’s good news. Quinn and other Chicago-area Democrats have been kicking Southern Illinois in the teeth. It’s good to know that if the region doesn’t give up, it will prevail, at least according to the governor.
Quinn’s Caterpillar jaunt may have been an effort to shore up a longstanding Democratic base: union-ized labor. We doubt it will gain him a lot of ground. In light of his clash with AFSCME over the prison closings and his upcoming pension reform battle, Quinn will have a tough time rallying union support.
In fact, at Governor’s Day on Wednesday, Quinn caught a wallop from union demonstrators, including chants of “Respect Illinois Workers,” “Gov. Quinn has got to go” and “Liar.”
Quinn also heads into Friday’s one-day special session of the Legislature seemingly convinced he and the General Assembly can handle a major pension overhaul in a single day. As The Associated Press pointed out in its coverage for today, his optimism seems to be singular among major-party leaders.
The governor, of late, is striking us more as a candidate than a leader. And we most certainly need a leader, as the state grapples with staggering short- and long-term debt despite a hefty income tax in-crease and a mish-mash of smaller tax, free and rate increases.
The governor needs to hunker down and produce some results with pension reform, job creation and statewide economic development. Leaders need to focus on goals, but Quinn now is looking more like the gadfly populist showman fellow Democrats once reviled than the policy leader and caring statesman he has shown hints of.
It’s your time, Gov. Quinn. Certainly, if interested in re-election, you must use find the balance between candidate and leader. We wish you luck, for all of our sakes, but results would speak a lot louder than luck, both in your legacy and at the polls.