CHICAGO | The 2014 race for Illinois' governor entered a new phase Thursday as Gov. Pat Quinn took time on a work day to accept a union endorsement for his re-election bid.
While Quinn has recently ratcheted up the rhetoric on issues such as anti-violence efforts with campaign flair, the Chicago Democrat's campaigning has been largely unpublicized with speeches at churches, meetings with Democratic officials and small fundraisers.
But on Thursday — with the cameras rolling — he stopped by the Chicago International Produce Market to pick up a re-election nod from Teamsters Joint Council 25. The labor union, which represents more than 100,000 workers in Illinois and Indiana, gave Quinn an endorsement around the same time four years ago.
The event was one indicator of how Quinn will balance his current job and the campaign in the coming months and where both will overlap. He spent Thursday morning in his official capacity talking jobs and the future of Latino students at the Hispanic Business Expo. Later, with his tie removed, he stood by a loading dock at the market and talked about those who live paycheck to paycheck and his experiences as a Teamster from 1969 to 1971 when he worked during college.
"It's important to make sure we always take care of our responsibilities and the oath of office, I do that," Quinn told reporters afterward. "At the same time, you've got to defend your record. And the people of Illinois, in a campaign, want their governor to be out and about. And that's exactly what I'm doing."
The event was also a chance for Quinn to differentiate himself from Democratic challenger, former White House chief of staff Bill Daley. The son and brother of two Chicago mayors has played up his experience in national politics and repeatedly taken aim at Quinn's leadership in Springfield.
Even though Quinn has had a thorny relationship with a state worker union over contracts and pay, Teamster officials touted Quinn's support of working people.
"He inherited a very bad situation here in Illinois and needless to say, I think the whole world knows he's done the best with what he can with what he has," said Teamsters Local 786 President Michael Yauger.
Four Republicans have announced intentions to run next year. They are Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner and two state senators, Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Several are expected to announce lieutenant governor picks; candidates can start circulating petitions next week.