Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Ray LaHood Endorses Dan Rutherford in the Governor’s Race

The longtime Peoria congressman has a soft spot for Pat Quinn, but he’s backing the Illinois treasurer.

Ray LaHood Photo: Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune

I talked to Ray LaHood from Washington this morning. The long-time Republican congressman from Peoria and transportation secretary during President Obama’s first term is always a good interview, and today he was as direct as ever.

I didn’t expect an answer when I asked LaHood who he’s supporting in the hotly contested Republican gubernatorial primary—he had told me in an earlier conversation of his long friendship with Barack Obama and that he voted for Obama, not Romney, in the 2012 election. I suspected that he might be supporting Pat Quinn.

“I’m supporting [Illinois state treasurer] Dan Rutherford,” LaHood told me. “He’s somebody that I’ve known throughout my 35-year career. He and I were elected in ’94. He was elected state rep and I was elected to Congress … He represented a senate district that was in my congressional district and then, when Dan ran for treasurer, I tried to help him as much as I could … I think he’s going to win the primary.”

I was correct that LaHood had a soft spot for Quinn, whom he called a friend of many years, and added, “I had no better partner as governor than Pat Quinn. He wanted to do stuff with transportation.”

When I asked LaHood if Illinois suffers from no longer having one of its own as transportation secretary, he said no, “because in Illinois you have two very strong leaders. One is the mayor of Chicago who has as his big agenda [items] infrastructure and transportation. Illinois has benefitted mightily from the fact that Rahm’s the former [White House] chief of staff, but he has also put together his own program for private funding. It’s not called an infrastructure bank, but it’s similar to an infrastructure bank to attract private dollars. Rahm really gets it and he knows how to make things happen and he’s made a lot of things happen just in the short three years that he’s been mayor.

“The other key player is Gov. Quinn [who has] been very strong for infrastructure. As long as you have good leadership in cities and in states, and mayors and governors that want to make things happen, it’ll happen whether you have a secretary [of transportation] from the state or not.”

Editor’s note: A full Q&A with LaHood is forthcoming. It should cover everything from Bob Gates’ new memoir and its treatment of LaHood buddy Joe Biden, LaHood’s own memoir to be published this spring, LaHood’s take on Obama, his insight into serving as a Republican in a Democratic administration, some thoughts on his successor, Aaron Schock, and LaHood’s continuing friendship Rahm Emanuel. Oh, and you can also find out if LaHood, the fervent enemy of “distracted driving,” ever texts or talks while driving.

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