Saturday, October 01, 2005

Edgar: Won't run; Supports Judy Baar Topinka

Links added and Revised Slightly at 5:30 pm on Sunday.

Around 2:07 pm yesterday afternoon, at Chicago’s Union League Club (“ULC”), Jim Edgar said, with tears and great emotion, he would never run again for political office. The former Illinois Governor [1991-98] dashed the hopes of many in the Illinois Republican Party, who think the current crop of official candidates [Rauschenberger, Brady, Oberweis and Gidwitz] and potential supplements [Topinka, Birkett and O’Malley] to that crop of Republican gubernatorial candidates can’t beat Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich. They think this is true even though Blago’s Administration appears to be embroiled in scandals, has hints and charges of corruption and ethical lapses all around it and is already connected to the corruption by the combination of the Joe Cari [former Finance Chair at the DNC who held a fund raiser for Blago] plea deal with "reliable sources," i.e., "Public Official A," in the pension fund-campaign contribution kickback scheme described in the plea agreement is said to be Gov. Blagojevich.

The white haired 59 year old former Governor [with his black haired wife, Brenda, standing next to him or fielding questions herself during the entire 45 minute press conference] [See ABC7 News Video Segment here] and {See CBS2News Video Segment and entire press conference statement here] didn’t quite say it, but it was clear his decision never to run again for public office related in large part to to his chronic heart disease problems [Angioplasty and bypass] during his eight year gubernatorial tenure in the 90s and yet another heart attack [this one mild and publicly disclosed for the first time during yesterday afternoon’s press conference]. The other major part of Governor Edgar’s decision was clearly his respect and love for--and gratitude to-- his wife whom he described as a real “trooper,” and of whom he said recently—“That poor woman, I have drug her through more campaigns.” [See here].

Jim Edgar gave Brenda a nice peck on the lips during the press conference. It won’t go down as the Al and Tipper Gore Kiss, but it was a nice touch.

The fact Governor Edgar, wife Brenda, their kids and their grandchildren have a great life in Illinois and Colorado—all of which is very comfortable for the Governor professionally, financially and personally—is yet another reason to forego the hard life of campaigning and especially governing. Also, having left office with an approval rating in the 70s, Edgar will, as it stands now, probably be extremely well treated by historians. Would he really want to try to improve that political legacy? Is the Pope Jewish? I don’t think so.

The ULC seventh floor large meeting room was packed. First, there were probably about fifty electronic and print journalists front and center in the room. Another hundred or so very familiar faces of current and past pols, political handlers and public policy makers flanked the media and stood on either side. Many of these folks had just attended an "Illinois Issues" lunch and panel discussion moderated by Edgar on the Future of Illinois, and then migrated from the sixth floor to the seventh floor of the ULC to find out if Edgar was “in or out.”

Although Edgar’s public discussion of his decision heated up in early August, he said yesterday that party leaders approached him about making a run about three months ago. And, he had apparently agonized over his decision until the moment he announced it. Edgar said he probably wouldn’t feel so good about this decision on Saturday—and he noted his previous decisions neither to seek re-election in ’98, nor to make a U. S. Senate run in 2002 or 2004, despite the urgings of many in his party, were all decisions he felt good about the day after.
Mike Flannery [CBS 2-News]: …Having been First Lady, I know…you did a lot of stuff with DCFS and troubled kids. I’m sure there must be times when you think about things you could do if you had that platform back again. Was there any anguish on your part?

Brenda Edgar: There was anguish on my part, but my main concern was Jim. And my main concern was that he is the person who would be standing out front. The person that would have to do the campaigning and endure the difficulties of the campaign trail. That he would be the person that would have to go into office … I was concerned about the ramifications for him…

Andy Shaw [ABC –7 News]: Brenda, are you relieved?

Brenda Edgar: Yes.
[Big Laughter from the crowd]
Jim Edgar: …I want to reiterate [that] Brenda did not say, “You cannot run.” In fact, Brenda was very good about saying, even as late as this morning, “Maybe you ought to run.” …I’d say 90% of my former staff were against me running- on the personal side. So, it wasn’t just Brenda who had concerns. I had some concerns. And, most of the people who knew me had concerns on the personal side…
Jeff Berkowitz: You just mentioned the [importance of the candidate’s prior track] record: Some people, including former Senator Pat O’Malley, have said that Judy Baar Topinka is too closely aligned historically with [former Governor] George Ryan [now on trial for RICO criminal allegations] to be the right [Gubernatorial] candidate. What do you say to those people?

Jim Edgar: I don’t, I don’t—I mean, Judy was cordial to George Ryan. So were many of the legislators. So were these candidates. That doesn’t mean they were close. I tried to be cordial to him. He didn’t always support me. But, no, I think you’ve got to—Judy will rise or fall on Judy. I don’t really think the George Ryan thing is going to have as much hangover, particularly as you begin to see problems with the Democrats. Again, I am not saying who is right or who is wrong or who did what—I am just saying, if you read the newspaper, it is not restricted to one party. So, I think all candidates are going to be looked at very closely and people are going to try to get a sense—Are these ethical people? And, that I think is going to be the key.
Partial Transcript of Governor and Brenda Edgar Press Conference, September 30, 2005 Union League Club of Chicago.
Jeff Berkowitz: Governor, one last question. What are you going to do about endorsing- in terms of making a decision [regarding the Gubernatorial candidates]?

Jim Edgar: Wait and see. I want to wait and see if Judy runs. I mean, I’ll, if Judy runs, I’d be for Judy. But, I don’t know if she is going to run. And, if she doesn’t run, I think there are some other people there. We’ll see how that goes.

Berkowitz: Do you have an idea of how soon she’ll decide?

Jim Edgar: No, I don’t know. You’d have to ask her [State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka].

Berkowitz: Thank You, Governor.
Conversation immediately following the Governor Jim Edgar and Brenda Edgar Press Conference, September 30. 2005
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at >More press conference postngs, including reactions of pols and other players to follow this weekend.