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Illinois governor faces challenge from former Obama Chief of Staff Daley

Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley awaits remarks from U.S. President Barack Obama on government reform at the White House in Wa
Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley awaits remarks from U.S. President Barack Obama on government reform at the White House in Wa

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the son and brother of former mayors of Chicago, announced on Tuesday he is exploring a challenge to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in the 2014 Democratic primary.

The news could get even worse for Quinn as Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, has said she also is considering challenging Quinn.

The political maneuvering in President Barack Obama's home state follows the failure of the state legislature to approve reforms to rein in ballooning public pension costs and to vote on a measure to legalize gay marriage.

About 62 percent of Illinois voters disapprove of the job Quinn is doing, according to a survey of Democrats, Republicans and independents by the We Ask America polling group last month, making him one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

Recent opinion polls suggest Quinn would lose a Democratic primary to Madigan in 2014. Polls also show Madigan beating both Quinn and Daley in a three-way race.

"It may be Daley trying to call Lisa Madigan's bluff, trying to get her to make a decision," Christopher Mooney, political science professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield, said of Daley's announcement. Mooney said Daley may ultimately decide not to run if Madigan challenges Quinn.

Daley is the son of long-time former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, known for his defiance of Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention, and brother of more recent long-time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley's father and brother served as mayor of Chicago for 43 of the last 58 years.

Bill Daley, 64, served as White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama from January 2011 to January 2012. Daley was U.S. Commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton and has an extensive business background, including serving as former Midwest chairman of JP Morgan Chase and Co.

He also chaired Al Gore's unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign.

Kent Redfield, emeritus political science professor with the University of Illinois-Springfield, said that despite Daley's family name, Madigan has an advantage in recognition in the state because of her 10-year tenure as attorney general.

"She's done a very good job in putting a record out there," said Redfield. "If it's a three-way race with the attorney general in there, it's a more difficult task."

Daley did not mention Quinn directly in a video announcing his potential bid for governor. He took aim at legislators for failing to pass pension reform and gay marriage.

"We can't wait for the legislature to get well on its own," Daley said. "We need a governor who takes the field, takes command and gets things done."

Quinn took office in 2009 after Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested for political corruption. Quinn narrowly won a full term over a conservative Republican opponent in the 2010 election.

In response to the Daley announcement, the Quinn campaign cited the governor's accomplishments in various areas. "With the primary in March ...there will be plenty of time for politics in the future," it said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins: Editing by Greg McCune, Lisa Von Ahn and Dan Grebler)

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