Bill Daley says creating jobs will be No. 1 issue for him

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

— Bill Daley, 64, has never run for elected office. But that fact doesn't seem to faze Daley in his quest to topple Gov. Pat Quinn in the March primary election for Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

And why should Daley be phased? He is the youngest child of the legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and the younger brother of ex-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Politics is the Daley family business, and business has been good.

"I know politics, I've been around it, I know how difficult it is, how crazy it can be," Daley said Wednesday during a visit to the BND, which constituted a break from a long road trip he's taking around Southern Illinois with his wife Bernadette Keller, who goes by the nickname Bernie.

A former Commerce Department secretary under President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama's ex-chief of staff, Daley has been a Democratic Party heavy-hitter for two decades.

Daley made his mark as a lawyer and bank executive, then joined government service, playing key roles in everything from the crafting of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s to the successful hunt for Osama bin Ladin in May 2011.

Daley acknowledged it won't be easy to beat an incumbent governor in November 2014. Quinn has " a lot of resources and he'll be able to use them," Daley said.

Even more formidable will be the challenge of beating Lisa Madigan, the Democratic Illinois attorney general and the daughter of Mike Madigan, the Illinois House speaker.

While Quinn is not very popular with voters at the moment, Lisa Madigan is; 54 percent of voters in a poll last month said they like her.

And even though Madigan has not officially announced her candidacy for governor, that fact hasn't kept her campaign from raising more than $4.2 million, easily dwarfing Daley's campaign war chest of $800,000, according to the Associated Press.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Bill Brady, Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford are running for governor.

A Catholic, Daley breaks from his church leadership in supporting gay marriage and abortion rights.

Daley wants to see tighter gun regulations, including expanded background checks, such as at gun shows. Daley also wishes to pour a lot more money into early childhood education "because the future of this state is about education."

If you worry about kids when they're in high school, "forget about it," he said. "You got to get to them at 3, 4, 5 years old if you want to have any impact on them."

But the major focus of his gubernatorial campaign will be boosting economic growth in Illinois, which has lagged behind Indiana and other neighboring states in job creation.

"The No. 1 issue in this election has got to be about jobs," he said.

The necessary first step to bring more jobs into the state rests on putting the state's fiscal house in order, he said.

"First of all, you got to solve this fiscal crisis," he said. "You can't have the worst bond rating and think that gives confidence. We have to also begin to build confidence in our political structure."

In this regard, one of the state's biggest problems is the fact that so many politicians must spend so much of their time raising money when instead they should be focused on their jobs as lawmakers, Daley said.

If elected governor, Daley said he would not accept campaign donations while the General Assembly is in session.

Over the years, Daley said, he thought about running for office on many occasions. But this time around he decided to jump into the race because of the huge fiscal mess in Springfield owing to the state's underfunded public pension system, whose liabilities total nearly $100 billion.

Daley also said the state needs better and stronger leadership, especially now, in the wake of the corruption trial that sent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to federal prison.

As for Quinn, Daley criticized him for the "lack of leadership" concerning the state's concealed weapons law -- passed two days ago over Quinn's veto -- and for failing to support aggressive efforts to resolve the state's dire financial situation.

Neither Quinn, nor a spokesman, could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Daley acknowledged that metro-east voters might have good reason to feel suspicious about another Chicago-area politician seeking their votes.

"All I can ask and all I can hope for is that people will give me a chance to first get to know me and get to listen to my ideas and my suggestions, who I'm about and whatever I've done," Daley said. "Hopefully, they will give me that chance."

One of the big lessons Daley said his father taught him was this: "Make the tough decisions. And be clear as to where you stand."

During his 13 months as Obama's chief of staff, from 2011 to 2012, Daley took part in the many high-level White House meetings concerning the hunt for bin Ladin and the eventual decision to raid the al Qaeda leader's compound in Pakistan.

"It really ticks me off when people say it was an easy decision," he said. "I was in every meeting he was in, from the day I got there to the day of the raid, and there was honest disagreement from some of the most senior military and intelligence people in the nation on whether or not to do that."

In the end, it was Obama's call "to do it and how to do it," Daley said. "And he put his stamp on it."

So how would his White House experience translate into his leadership style if elected the state's next governor?

"Consult with lots of different people from lots of different sides of an issue and build a consensus before you move forward," he said. "But lay out what you're for to the legislators. And the governor drives the process."

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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