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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Does Pat Quinn Have a Personal Life?

A look inside the world of the 65-year-old governor reveals a man obsessed with work—and uncomfortable away from it.

 Photo: Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune

Having spent a couple of months and 60-plus interviews trying to figure out “Who is Bruce Rauner?” and focusing on the private man who is making his first stab at elective politics, I thought I should also take a look at the private side of Pat Quinn.

Quinn, 65, seems to lack even a trace of the hedonism gene. We don’t read about the governor “spooling” spaghetti or playing golf. Unlike many other governors, he doesn’t mix with celebrities, except of the political kind—try, as the election looms on November 4, both Obamas, both Clintons, Joe Biden, Martin Sheen for starters—and this political A-list is not here because its members are buddies of Quinn’s, but because they’re terrified he might lose. He is, after all, running nerve-wrackingly even with Bruce Rauner in the President’s adopted, supposedly deep blue, home state.

The coverage of Quinn’s public life is copious. He has been in Illinois politics for almost four decades, starting with a staff position in 1975 for Gov. Dan Walker; founding the Coalition for Political Honesty; pushing the 1980 “Cutback Amendment” to slash the size of the General Assembly from 177 to 118; winning, in 1982, a spot as commissioner on the corruption-plagued Cook County Board of Tax Appeals; organizing the Citizens Utility Board in 1983; winning races for Treasurer in 1990 and Lieutenant Governor in 2002 (as well as losing races for Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and Lieutenant Governor). His private life has been barely touched.

Born in 1948, Patrick Quinn is the grandson of Patrick Joseph Quinn, an immigrant from Ireland who was a miner in Montana before moving to Chicago, opening a grocery store in Englewood in 1914, and serving as a Democratic precinct captain. His son, Patrick Joseph, called P.J., was an executive for Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago. (According to Mitchell Locin’s excellent 1985 Chicago Tribune magazine profile of Quinn, P.J. sold the Daley family its “burial plot in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.”) P.J. and his family lived in South Shore on 74th and South Shore Dr. until Pat was two when the family, which would eventually include three boys, moved to a $20,000 ranch house they built in Hinsdale. Quinn’s mother, Eileen, was born and reared in Englewood and was a secretary for 30 years at the Hinsdale Public Schools. She just turned 97.

(With his grandfather getting his hands and lungs dirty in Montana, it’s surprising that the Quinn campaign hasn’t used that history in an ad attacking Rauner, who owns a spectacular house—one of nine you might have heard—in Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Then there Rauner’s ownership of 23,000 acres of ranchland in Montana and Wyoming.)

Gov. Quinn was educated at St. Isaac Jogues in Hinsdale for elementary school and at Fenwick, the private Catholic high school—all-boys while Quinn attended—in Oak Park; then on to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, graduating in 1971; both Quinn and Rauner were elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1980 Quinn graduated from Northwestern Law, having, according to Locin, turned down Harvard Law.

Pat Quinn was once married. His June 1982 marriage in Wheaton to Julie Ann Hancock ended in divorce in 1986.

They met at a party in 1981 when Pat was 32 and Julie, then an interior design student from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, was 20. According to Locin, Julie’s mother warned her against dating the older man. “My mother didn’t like it that much. She said, ‘Oh, honey, oh, be careful.’” Hancock told Locin that on their first meeting, she found her future husband and our future governor to be “weird—but also cute.”

In 1983, the couple moved from an Oak Park apartment to the Chicago house in which Gov. Quinn still lives, and in quick succession, 1983 and 1984, had two sons. The boys, Patrick and David, hadn’t yet hit kindergarten when Julie filed for divorce.

Why? Who knows, except that Locin’s profile, published on December 1, 1985 (pre-separation) includes this nugget: They honeymooned on Nantucket, “during which [Quinn] read a book about organizing the nuclear-freeze movement.” Locin quotes Julie as saying, “He seems to be so preoccupied with things. He’s so busy with his work. Sometimes I’ll be talking to him, but he doesn’t hear a word I’m saying.”

The divorce file, available from the DuPage County Judicial Center in Wheaton, does not make nearly as interesting reading as that of Bruce Rauner from his first wife, also obtained by Chicago. “Julie has filed a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage against Patrick.” It notes that “said cause is still pending and undetermined,” but later in the 23-page document cites “irreconcilable differences” and specifies that the couple “have separated”—Julie was living in Naperville; Pat in the Chicago house—“and have been and are now living separate and apart from each other and not as husband and wife.”

They were given “joint legal custody” of their sons. The document notes that both parties are fit to parent the boys, but, “in the best interests of the minor children,” Julie was “granted the residential care, control and custody of the minor children.” Monthly child support was set for $1,000 for the children and $500 for Julie. She accepted a “quitclaim” to “all of her interest in the parties’ marital residence”—the now fraying 1,800-square-foot house in Galewood on Chicago’s West Side—in exchange for Patrick paying her $7,000 “as her share of the equity” in the house. The agreement specifics the division of “furniture remaining in [the] house,” giving Julie the sewing table, the Mikasa china, and her “parents furniture, which was loaned to the parties…book shelf, white couch, bed headboard and two dressers.” Patrick got the ’82 LeBaron and Julie got the ’84 Cutlass. The Rauners these are not.

Until last year there were sightings of the governor with a decade-younger girlfriend, Monica Walker, Holland Capital Management CEO. (See their “first dance” at the 2011 inauguration.) Walker hasn’t been visible, as far as I can tell, during the campaign. (The most recent reference in a Nexis search was January 20, 2013, when Walker, described as a “friend,” accompanied Quinn to Obama inaugural parties in Washington.

Quinn’s sons, Patrick Joseph IV, 31, and David, 29, are not active in the 2014 campaign. David, who has an MBA from the University of Chicago and now lives in Sydney, Australia, where he works as an equity investor, was more visible in his father’s 2010 campaign. David told then-Sun-Times reporter Abdon Pallasch (now Quinn’s assistant budget director) that his father can “live on a penny.”

The older son, Patrick, “a fledgling artist,” according to Jim Warren’s 2013 profile of Quinn in Chicago, is a graduate student in Brooklyn. Kerry Lester reported in the Daily Herald just after the 2010 election, that Patrick IV “hopes to make the Olympic trials in the 10,000-meter run.”

Quinn’s indefatigable mother, Eileen, and his younger brother, John, an American history teacher and former basketball coach at Fenwick, are visible and audible in pushing the virtues of Patrick, the first-born of the three brothers. (P.J. Quinn died before his son became governor.)

Quinn has publicly promised that should he win on November 4—two weeks from tomorrow—he’ll serve that second term and that’ll be it. What he’ll do after is fascinating to contemplate, but his life so far has shown it unlikely he’ll take the typical former governor route—a seven-figure partnership at a law firm heading a “government relations” (i.e. lobbying) department. Quinn was in private practice as a tax lawyer for about 10 minutes after graduating from law school. And if he loses, look for him to run again—perhaps against Bruce Rauner—in 2018. One Pat Quinn trait that’s undeniable is that he never gives up.

(Interesting historical note: in December, 1978, when Illinois lawmakers passed a pay raise for themselves and for the governor, Quinn organized the Illinois Tea Party and deluged then Gov. Jim Thompson’s office with 40,000 tea bags. Pat Quinn? The Tea Party? Who knew?)

Carol Felsenthal is a lifelong Chicagoan and self-proclaimed political junkie. She writes occasionally for Politico Magazine and The Hill. Her books include biographies of Bill Clinton, Katharine Graham, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Among her many stories for Chicago are memorable profiles of Michelle Obama and Bruce Rauner. Follow her on Twitter at @csfelsenthal.


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