by Jeff Fleischer(Medill News Service, October 31, 2002)
With Election Day drawing near, Illinois gubernatorial candidates Rod Blagojevich and Jim Ryan continued their recent campaign trends Thursday, with Democratic frontrunner Blagojevich fending off new allegations from the Ryan campaign.
“Mr. Ryan will continue, as we get down to the waning days of the campaign, to raise issues of this sort,” Blagojevich said. “He’s free to do it, it’s a free country. I’m going to keep my eye on the ball and talk about issues that really have a lot to do with the quality of life of people.”
At a morning news conference, Ryan introduced Beverly Stanis, who photographed a City of Chicago Department of Transportation truck outside a Park Ridge home where she was staying. She said men using that truck went door-to-door in the neighborhood, passing out Blagojevich campaign literature, which would be misuse of a city vehicle. She said one of the men told her she “shouldn’t be taking pictures” and “drove off in a hurry.”
“I don’t believe this is the proper type of campaign style to bring a Department of Transportation, City of Chicago truck out into a Park Ridge neighborhood, obviously not on city business,” Stanis said.
Ryan took the opportunity to repeat many of his recent charges against Blagojevich, and said the incident Stanis witnessed continued a pattern. He again criticized Blagojevich’s connections to his father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell, and contributions to the Blagojevich campaign from the Coalition for Better Government. Ryan cited news photographs of coalition members Dominic Longo and John “Quarters” Boyle, both convicted felons, leaving an office carrying Blagojevich campaign literature.
“You ever hear of circumstantial evidence?” Ryan asked. “How many pieces of evidence does one have to see before you start concluding Rod Blagojevich is a machine politician? … When Rod Blagojevich says that he is the agent of change we need in Springfield, the evidence suggests otherwise.”
At his own news conference later in the day, Blagojevich denied any involvement in the Park Ridge incident.
“I have no knowledge of this,” Blagojevich said. “Whoever this person is is evidently in trouble now with his job, and rightfully so. He has no connection to my campaign.”
The Democratic candidate also repeated his argument that the Coalition for Better Government is not involved with his campaign, and any work it does is done independently. He also criticized Ryan for spending so much effort on these allegations.
“I wish he had found that kind of energy in investigating the license-for-bribes scandal,” Blagojevich said. “That would have been a better priority.”
Blagojevich spoke at a downtown rally, joined on stage by more than 40 women in political and advocacy leadership roles. When he wasn’t refuting Ryan’s charges, the congressman focused on his plans to raise the minimum wage, change the state’s child-support collection system and ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
“Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,'” Blagojevich said. “And I dream of Illinois as a place where we can change a culture of corruption, change a culture of cynicism, change a place filled with misplaced priorities … and change things in a state that I believe is ready for progressive and high-minded ideas.”