Embattled governors an Illinois tradition

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Updated July 16, 2013


By Maresa Strano

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois: Former Governor George Ryan was officially freed from federal custody this month after six months under house arrest.[1] Ryan was released from federal prison in January, having served a six and a half year sentence for corruption charges -- ranging from conspiracy and racketeering to tax fraud -- that traced back to his time serving as the Illinois Secretary of State.[2][3]

Although things appear to be looking up for Ryan, for the two men who have subsequently held Illinois' top office, the immediate future may seem less bright.

For one, Rod Blagojevich, Ryan's successor and now Illinois’ only incarcerated governor, is still serving a 14-year sentence for corruption.[2]

Now current incumbent Pat Quinn, a Democrat who ascended from lieutenant governor to governor following Blagojevich's impeachment in 2009, is facing serious concerns about his chances for re-election in 2014. Quinn ran for, and won, a full term in 2010 and is eligible for another four year term. According to multiple outside ratings Quinn is among the most vulnerable governors heading into the 2014 electoral cycle, although not because the seat is considered at risk of partisan switch.[4] As of May 2015, Illinois is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas. The biggest threat then comes from his fellow Democrats, including declared challenger William "Bill" Daley, a past U.S. Commerce Secretary and White House chief of staff. Quinn dodged a potential bullet when state attorney general Lisa Madigan, who had been expected to enter the primary race as well, announced that she would instead seek re-election to her current post.[5][6][7]

Quinn is the fifth of the state’s forty-six previous lt. governors to have succeeded to the governorship mid-term. As governor, Quinn has emphasized improving the state government's ethical standards and protecting public-sector labor unions. His tenure thus far has been marred by steep, deeply unpopular budget cuts and tax increases stemming from long-term state debt, among other issues that have factored into his status as one of the most unpopular governors in the country right now.[8]

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