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Potential Quinn challenger recommends nonpartisan contests

(MCT) — Bill Daley, who's pondering a Democratic challenge to Gov. Pat Quinn next year, said Tuesday that the state should explore replacing primary elections with nonpartisan contests like Chicago uses for mayor and City Council in which candidates who get more than half the vote win outright.

Daley, the son of a mayor who served 21 years and brother of another who served 22 years, also opened the door to term limits as a method to break partisan gridlock — an idea Quinn backed nearly 20 years ago in leading an unsuccessful petition drive.

Daley's proposal for nonpartisan primary contests are a far cry from the days when the late Mayor Richard J. Daley ran a machine powered by the ability to crank out Democratic votes in exchange for the city jobs that were the spoils of winning office.

The city's mayoral post officially became nonpartisan in 1995, when Richard M. Daley was re-elected after six years in office. Bill Daley said that style of election — a winner-take-all contest if the top candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote — should be considered at the state level and potentially for congressional seats to try to break allegiances to party orthodoxy in partisan primaries.

"I think there ought to be serious thought to basically a nonpartisan election," Daley told reporters after he appeared on a panel at a fundraiser for the Catholic charitable organization Misericordia, which assists the developmentally disabled.

"The American people and the people in Illinois and Chicago, everyone is desirous of effectiveness and efficiency in government," said Daley, who served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama and commerce secretary for President Bill Clinton. "If it takes basic changes, whether it's term limits or others to kind of shake this system up, we've got to do that because I think most people would say, 'Right now, it may not be working anymore.'"

Daley said he still is pondering a challenge to Quinn. His only criticism Tuesday was to say the incumbent has been either governor or lieutenant governor since 2002, "and one has to look and say, 'What's happened?'"

Quinn, speaking later Tuesday at a diversity event at the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center, said he thought the California "top two" law was worth looking at, though he has favored an "open primary" system in which voters would not have to declare a political party to obtain a primary ballot.

"Some of our more political people have opposed that in both parties, and I think it's time to maybe open up the door at least to (an) open primary," Quinn said.

Asked by reporters about potential 2014 primary challengers, Quinn said he expects to be the Democratic nominee in the general election.

"I think that when you're in the arena as I am every day, working on issues, that's the best way to help the people," he said. "There's all kinds of time for politics, and some people on the sidelines can point fingers and do all kinds of things that are political. But we need a governor in this state — and that's me — who works every day on things like pension reform, banning assault weapons."

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