Anatomy of a Decision
Astute readers will note that way back on August 14th, in announcing at that time that I wasn't interested in running for Treasurer, I made the following statement:
I won't get into who I think will run, but I think that we would be remiss not to field a strong candidate for what is a very winnable race. That is to say, don't just throw somebody from downstate on the ticket to say that we have balance, but support a qualified candidate who can articulate the issues and strengthen the overall party.I meant it then and I mean it now. But I can honestly say that I didn't realize what my comments a few weeks ago would put in motion. When Judy Barr Topinka indicated that she was going to make the race for Governor, I said in part, the following:
It's just that I think that in a blue state, with an open statewide seat up for grabs, the race is now begging for somebody with legislative experience and a broader perspective of state issues than one would get in (Mangieri's) present position...As such, the Dems best bet is to put the most qualified candidate forward regardless of geographic or other considerations. And that means that there are now a lot of people that are going to give this race a fresh look.
Then the phone calls started and I found myself again considering whether or not this was something that I wanted to do. And while it would have been easier just to ignore the fact that the race was viable (to say the least), that would have simply been a way to avoid making a decision.
The technical analysis of the race was actually the easiest part of the decision. Based upon the commitments which were graciously extended to me by key individuals from around the City and County, I am confident that Chicago and Cook County would prove to be a very significant asset in my campaign. As important, however, have been the numerous calls that I have received from downstate Democrats, including some Downstate Chairmen with whom I had never previously spoken, indicating their support as well.
A review of the field really didn't sway me one way or the other. About a week ago, I met with Alexi Giannoulias, a 29 year old alum of my high school who has stated his intentions to run. Alexi reminds me of myself at that age, although much more focused and with a lot more money :) I think that he is intelligent, sincere, and that he and I would find ourselves to have much in common on the issues.
Slated candidate, Paul Mangieri came by for a visit a couple of days later. Paul exudes the confidence that a slated candidate should carry, and strikes me as a good and decent man. In any event, out of deference and my commitment to both men, I am not going to discuss the content of our meetings other than to say that I thought that they were both positive and that I like both of these guys.
On the Republican side, I just don't see anybody out there that can make a real go of this race. Without going after anybody personally, let me just say that the Dems should be ashamed of themselves if we don't pick up this seat.
I then needed to take a fresh look at the substantive nature of the office. A review of the work of past Treasurers convinced me that the job is much more than that of a glorified banker. The Treasurer has a unique ability to implement and direct policy through the monetary leverage that is the state depository amount. A meeting with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a review of his tenure as State Treasurer shows the ability, through link deposit programs and the like, to work on issues ranging from agricultural incentives to veterans' programs to affordable housing.
I also took into consideration that I was making a decision that, one way or another, would forever change my path of public service. As such, properly or not, the question that I focused on wasn't whether I wanted to run for Treasurer, but in light of how I have seen things fall into place, whether I want to be Treasurer. I have always said that I would never seek an office solely for the sake of doing it. But it is also quite possible that there will never be a better chance to seek the honor and privilege of being a statewide constitutional officer and of doing the service that I could do in such an office.
After numerous discussions with friends, both political and non-political, and with my immediate family, a couple of questions kept resurfacing - One, was I leaning toward running because of a sincere desire to become the State Treasurer or simply because I believed that the campaign would be a successful one? Two, is this the capacity in which I feel that I can best be of service? And most importantly, is this the direction that I want to take with my family at this juncture?
It would be disingenuous to say that my thoughts haven't been back and forth numerous times. But I am now reassured that I have actually meant it all these years when I said that I would not run just for the sake of it.
I believe that there are issues and causes that I still want to work on, and I do not believe that the office of Treasurer is the best place for me to do that. For that reason, I will not be a candidate for the office in 2006. Rather, I will seek re-election to represent the 11th District in the Illinois House.
Often times, people shy away from a race that seems like an uphill battle. Let me assure you that that is an easier decision to make than this one has been. I appreciate to no end the calls of friendship and offers of support that have poured in, and the patience of my friends and colleagues as I worked to come to a decision.
I have no idea what, if anything my political future holds. Heck, I'd be lying if I said that I am positive that I am making the right decision. But I am going to look forward to the future and continuing to work, not just on substantive issues, but on making our party and the process the best that they can be. And I will continue to put those interests before my own.
On an related note, and maybe a topic for anoter day, this exercise has clarified for me that the future of the Democratic Party in our state rests in the ability and commitment to put forth ideals before individuals. There are people from one end of the state to the other prepared to step up for a candidate, regardless of location or background, whom they believe can give them a vision for leadership. The Party must strive to put those candidates forward.