Daley Exits Illinois Governor Race Citing Change of Heart

William M. Daley has witnessed the rigors of political campaigns since he was a boy, watching his father, two brothers and even presidents run -- up close. Three months into his first electoral bid, he decided he didn’t like the view from the candidate’s side of the lectern.

The former chief of staff to President Barack Obama and past JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive exited the Democratic primary race for Illinois governor, citing the challenges of being a first-time candidate.

While Daley, 65, said today that he could have beaten Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in next year’s primary and gone on to be elected in November to lead the nation’s fifth-most-populous state, he said his decision to drop out wasn’t based on victory or defeat.

“I cannot commit to what the voters may need,” Daley said at a private downtown Chicago club, four blocks from the City Hall office where his father and brother ruled as mayor for more than four decades.

“It’s really not about a campaign of six months or 14 months. It really is about a minimum of five to nine years to begin to straighten out this state,” said Daley, who was both reflective and testy during a 20-minute news briefing.

‘Better Tailor’

Quinn’s failure to broker a solution for the state’s almost $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities was the top reason Daley cited for challenging him. Daley’s decision leaves Quinn, for now, with a clear shot at the nomination in the March primary.

Quinn, 64, highlighted Daley’s multimillion-dollar net worth and contrasted himself as someone who isn’t a “champion of millionaires.”

“I fight hard for folks who don’t have lobbyists, who don’t have political-action committees, who aren’t in high places,” Quinn told reporters July 16. “I’m quite a bit different from Bill Daley. He has a better tailor than I do.”

A bitter primary battle threatened to weaken the Democratic nominee ahead of the general election. Democrats now control the governor’s office and the legislature.

The Quinn campaign responded to Daley’s decision, saying “a divisive primary would have only helped Republicans who want to take this state backwards and undo the important progress we have made.”

Quinn avoided another challenge when Attorney General Lisa Madigan decided not to enter the primary. Daley declined to speculate on other potential candidates and repeated his claim that Quinn wouldn’t win in 2014.

Daunting Prospect

While Daley’s resume includes stints as a lawyer, banker, political operative, U.S. commerce secretary, presidential campaign chairman, company president and top White House aide, he’d never been a candidate. He said he didn’t like Quinn’s attacking his “Democratic values,”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Daley on July 2, citing his support for tougher gun laws. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

The Daley legacy spurs nostalgia, fear and respect in Chicago. It’s sometimes loathed elsewhere in Illinois, where the city’s dominance can grate.

Long Service

Daley’s brother, Richard, left the mayor’s office in 2011 after more than two decades. Another brother, John, is a Cook County commissioner. Their father, Richard J. Daley, was the city’s mayor from 1955 to 1976.

In 2000, William Daley managed Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign, announcing in the wee hours after Election Day that declarations of George W. Bush’s Florida victory were premature, that a recount was required and that “our campaign continues.” Daley also was a chairman for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

When asked whether his claims that Quinn cannot win undermine his self-professed status as a loyal Democrat, Daley said, “One of my many failings in life is that I’m awfully honest.”

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