CHICAGO – A longtime advocate for term limits, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to commit to one for himself.
“One term at a time,” the Chicago Democrat told The Associated Press in a year-end interview Tuesday. “I’m not presuming anything. I’ve got to go out and convince a majority of people to vote for me.”
Quinn is seeking a second full term in 2014. A former lieutenant governor, he first became governor in 2009 after now imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was booted from office. Quinn won his first full term the following year defeating Republican state Sen. Bill Brady in a tight contest.
He pushed for term limits in the 1990s as state treasurer – calling it the “Eight is Enough” initiative – and said he still believes in them for both executive officials and legislators. But he’s toned down his stance in recent days. He said Tuesday that there first has to be an amendment that will start everyone on the same clock.
“I believe in term limits, but when they’re passed ... I think that’s the only fair way to go,” he told AP. “I’m running to get re-elected. That’ll be quite a battle in the coming year. There’s all kinds of talkers out there.”
The state’s constitution doesn’t currently set term limits for elected officials. Nationwide, more than 20 states have adopted term limits since the 1990s, but just slightly more than a dozen use them because some were either thrown out or repealed, said Chris Mooney, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
The issue has already been prominent in the gubernatorial campaign.
Potential Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, one of four Republicans on the March primary ballot, is circulating petitions to get term limits and other reforms before voters in 2014. The suburban Chicago businessman wants to limit lawmakers to eight years and vowed to only serve two terms if elected.
“Pat Quinn sounds like a double-talking politician,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in an email. “He already said he opposes Bruce’s term limits effort. Now Quinn says he wants one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else.”
Rauner, chairman of the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, has said the group has gathered more than half the nearly 300,000 petition signatures needed to get on the ballot.
Other Republicans seeking the governor’s office – Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Sen. Kirk Dillard and Brady – have said they support the idea of term limits in some form, whether it’s for governors or lawmakers’ leadership posts.