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Paul Vallas: A Democrat ... Who Was A Republican?

Bridgeport Public Schools (bridgeportedu.com)

Governor Pat Quinn has finally named his running mate. It's a once-notable Illinois politician who's been out-of-state for the past decade.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor. Conventional, political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

Instead, the governor surprised observers and picked Paul Vallas, a name that probably sounds familiar to Illinois Democrats. In 2002, he ran in the primary for governor but narrowly lost to Rod Blagojevich.

Blagojevich, of course, went on to become governor, with Pat Quinn as his running mate, only to eventually be ousted from office, which is how Quinn first became governor.

In a statement, Vallas says “I am honored to join forces with the strongest reform governor in the country."

But in a 2009 interview with Jeff Berkowitz, Vallas described himself as a Republican:

BERKOWITZ: "You think of yourself as a Republican?"

VALLAS: "I'm more of a Republican than Democrat now, but I'm ..."

BERKOWITZ: "If you run again for office you'd be running as a Republican as opposed to a Democrat?"

VALLAS: "I would, yes, yes, if I ran for public office ..."

In a statement, Quinn says he's known Vallas for 30 years, and that Vallas has "never been shy about fighting for education, reform and opportunities for working people."

Vallas was once a top fiscal officer in state government and then led Chicago Public Schools. After his 2002 election loss, he left Illinois -- and was superintendent of schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans. He's currently facing questions about statutory credentials and a backlash over his policies as head of a large Connecticut school district.

Quinn has no primary opposition; he'll eventually face one of four Republicans vying for the GOP's nomination for governor.

Current Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon announced in February that she was will abandon Quinn to seek a different office -- she's running for comptroller against Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka. In a statement, Simon says Vallas and Quinn will "make a great team."

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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