CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday he has selected former Chicago schools CEO and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Paul Vallas as his running mate for 2014, calling him a longtime reformer and expert on fiscal and education issues who will be a lieutenant governor "for the common good."
"I've known Paul Vallas for 30 years and he's never been shy about fighting for education, reform and opportunities for working people," Quinn said in an emailed announcement from his campaign. "We have made great progress these last few years, but serious challenges remain and our mission is not yet accomplished. Paul is an independent problem solver with a proven record of reform. He will be a strong Lt. Governor for the common good."
Vallas is still registered to vote in Illinois but is currently the school superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn., where he's been fighting to keep his job in a court battle challenging his credentials. The case is currently before the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Vallas ran Chicago Public Schools from 1995 until 2001 before losing the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 to now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Vallas then served as superintendent of schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans.
In the campaign's statement, Vallas said he is honored to join forces with "the strongest reform governor in the country."
"This governor has been getting big things done since he got here. Unlike his predecessors, Governor Quinn tackled the hard issues and has made the right decisions to get Illinois back on track," Vallas said. "Together we will fight every day for working families and deliver the reform and change that Illinois deserves."
Quinn served as Blagojevich's lieutenant governor until Blagojevich's ouster from office elevated Quinn to the state's top job. He won his first full term in 2010.
Quinn will face the winner of the March GOP primary. Four candidates are vying for the Republican nomination: state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, businessman Bruce Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
They have criticized Quinn for the state's ongoing financial troubles — which include a $100 billion unfunded pension liability and billions in unpaid bills — as well as for Illinois' unemployment rate, the second-highest of any state in the country.
The 2014 election marks the first time candidates for governor must choose their running mate. The change was made after the 2010 primary, when past legal troubles of the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor were revealed. He later dropped out of the race, but not before Democrats feared his record could drag down the ticket.
Quinn's current lieutenant governor, Sheila Simon, announced earlier this year she would step down after her current term. She is running for comptroller next year.