Can anyone doubt now that Paul Vallas would have been a better governor than Rod Blagojevich? Of course, had Vallas not lost to Blagojevich by about 25,000 votes in the 2002 Democratic primary he still would have had to get by Jim Ryan, but following George Ryan (no relation), it was destined to be a Democratic year.
Now it increasingly looks like Vallas will give it another shot in 2010.
“I haven’t decided,” he told Carol Marin on Chicago Tonight last night (after appearing at the City Club on Friday), but it was clear to me that he wants to run, if conditions are right. And those conditions? Money and the competition.
For one thing, he doesn’t want to put himself deeply in debt again. Vallas said that he paid off his $500,000 (roughly) campaign debt out of pocket. He had opportunities, he said, to hold fundraisers to pay off his debt, but he didn’t want to be linked to special interests.
Vallas will also have to size up the field. But he will have a pretty good pitch if he does run as a turnaround artist at just the time the state will need one. After all, he left the Chicago public school system to work for Philadelphia’s troubled school system and is now leading the New Orleans Recovery School District. (And, of course, he’s made enemies in each of those places as well.)
Vallas’ expertise in both budgeting and education is a powerful combination; his less-than-polished campaigning is refreshing but at times frenetic, and he told Marin he still won’t fly, which hampers traversing the state for votes. Lisa Madigan also looms with a strong record of her own on the Democratic side, and who knows who the Republicans will come up with. (Why not Denny Hastert?)
Finally, Vallas told Marin that the first thing he would do if elected governor would be to sit down with legislative leaders and develop an agenda. Vallas noted that he’s worked with Michael Madigan and Emil Jones before.
Vallas certainly wouldn’t be the only candidate with a strong case to make, but if he gets the financial backing (he talked last night about using the Internet a la Obama to raise funds) he could be formidable.