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Column

Prairie State pol mimicking top Californian

Pat Quinn is running for office again, this time for Illinois attorney general. The former governor might be looking to a successful veteran California politician for inspiration.

Is former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn stealing a page from California Gov. Jerry Brown’s playbook?

That’s the question we asked upon hearing that Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, recently announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general in the March 2018 primary.

Quinn joins a crowded Democratic field seeking to replace the retiring Lisa Madigan.

How crowded? There are seven other announced candidates.

They are state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, former Independent Chicago Police Board Administrator Sharon Fairley, state Sen. Scott Drury of Highland, Jesse Ruiz, president of the Chicago Park District Board, Aaron Goldstein of Chicago, a 33rd Ward Democratic committeeman, and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.

But a former governor, who served from 2009 to 2015, running for a lower-level statewide job? Seems to us we’ve seen a similar scenario play out before – in California.

That’s where former Gov. Jerry Brown, who first served from 1975 to 1983, ran for attorney general in 2006 and won. He served a 4-year term, in the midst of which he decided to run for governor again.

Successfully using his attorney general post as a stepping stone, Brown amazingly triumphed in the 2010 gubernatorial election and took the oath of office in early 2011 – a post that, at age 79, he continues to hold.

Quinn might be looking to the Brown’s example as, at age 68, he ponders his own political future.

There are other similarities.

Both Quinn and Brown are populists.

Both have widespread name recognition earned through being governor and numerous non-gubernatorial political campaigns.

Brown has run for the Democratic nomination for president several times and for U.S. Senate. He’s served as California secretary of state and mayor of Oakland.

Quinn has served as Illinois treasurer and lieutenant governor, and as a member of the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, and he ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state, treasurer, and U.S. Senate.

And Quinn, early in his career, led a successful petition campaign to put the Legislative Cutback Amendment on the 1980 state ballot, which voters approved. The result was a reduction in the number of Illinois House seats from 177 to 118.

Quinn’s comeback bid suffered a setback last week when Cook County Democratic Party leaders chose to endorse Sen. Raoul.

But with his widespread familiarity to voters, and amid a large field of candidates, Quinn might well pull it off. The only announced Republican candidate for attorney general, by the way, is attorney Erika Harold of Urbana.

Whether Quinn will be as successful, or as ambitious, as Brown remains to be seen, but his bid will be one more reason to keep an eye on the 2018 campaign.

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