New Ill. Gov. Works to Show He's Anti-Blagojevich

By: AP
By: AP
New Gov. Pat Quinn is wasting no time working to prove he

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to reporters outside the Governor's office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Friday, Jan. 30, 2009. Quinn was sworn as governor after the Illinois Senate vote 59-0 to remove the impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – New Gov. Pat Quinn is wasting no time working to prove he's nothing like his predecessor — impeached and ousted Rod Blagojevich.

Quinn will live at the Executive Mansion, he wants to reopen the state parks Blagojevich closed and he doesn't want his name plastered on Illinois Tollway signs when Blagojevich's is removed.

Amid the work of running the state, part of Quinn's new job is painting himself as the anti-Blagojevich, which he has started doing with actions both big and small.

"I don't think that'll take too much trying on my part. I don't think in any way I have a style that's similar to my predecessor," Quinn said Friday, a day after Blagojevich became the first Illinois governor to be booted from office.

Quinn, a Democrat like his predecessor, already has made a point of being accessible to the state's four other top elected officials, who had strained relationships with Blagojevich. He met Friday in Chicago with Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Madigan said Blagojevich had last met with the constitutional officers on July 1, 2003. Giannoulias said he was seeing the governor's office for the first time since his November 2006 election.

"I really think this is healthy for our state that we get together on a regular basis," Quinn said afterward. "We need to get the message out that ... we're working together for the betterment of everyone."

While Quinn works to put even more distance between himself and his former running mate — the two had been on the outs for years — Republicans were quick to link them from Day 1.

The Illinois Republican Party said Quinn's first act as governor should have been an apology to Illinoisans. It accused Quinn of standing by while Blagojevich committed the actions that led to his impeachment and removal from office.

"Blagojevich's Lieutenant Governor and Blagojevich Democrats came to power on a promise of change but four years later they looked the other way and chose to endorse Blagojevich for re-election even though our state was faced with the largest corruption investigation in its history," state GOP chairman Andy McKenna said in a statement.

Blagojevich's impeachment was triggered by his Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations he schemed to benefit from his power to appoint President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate replacement. He was convicted by the Illinois Senate for also abusing the power of his office by expanding state programs, wasting money and skirting hiring rules.

After his ouster, the state moved quickly to erase Blagojevich. His picture at the Capitol was taken down and his name erased from state Web sites.

Some of Quinn's gestures to show there's a new guy in charge have been more subtle.

He spent his first night on the job at the Executive Mansion and started moving in. Blagojevich had refused to move from Chicago to Springfield, irking downstate voters.

In his first news conference as governor, Quinn said he wanted to reopen the seven state parks and 11 historic sites Blagojevich closed last year because of budget cuts. But he didn't say how he would pay for that amid a budget deficit he has said could top $4 billion.

"I think it's squeezing a nickel to close parks and historic sites," Quinn said. "You squeeze a nickel and lose a half dollar. That's not smart government."

Quinn is welcome change to Ted Flickinger, president and CEO of the Illinois Association of Park Districts. Quinn spoke to the group Friday before meeting with state officers.

"It's the first time in a long time we've had a governor who puts a lot of emphasis on parks, recreation and conservation," Flickinger said.

Stylistically, Quinn and his predecessor couldn't be more different. While Blagojevich — until his impeachment trial began — made a habit of eluding the media, Quinn pledges to hold regular news conferences. Blagojevich was slick, while Quinn comes across as earnest.

Giannoulias expects state business to run more smoothly now that Blagojevich is out of the picture. "They can't be any worse," he said.

Decidedly lower-profile than Blagojevich, Quinn wants to be different from his predecessor in one key high-profile way.

When Blagojevich's name is removed from state tollway signs, Quinn doesn't want his emblazoned in its place.

"I don't think the tollway signs or the highway signs of Illinois should be an opportunity to pat the governor on the back," he said. "I think in particular the tollway signs, the way they were done, was pompous government."

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Associated Press writer Karen Hawkins in Chicago contributed to this report.


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