by Jeff Fleischer(Medill News Service, October 16, 2002)
Republican Jim Ryan returned to an offensive strategy Wednesday against gubernatorial opponent Rod Blagojevich, reiterating a number of accusations Ryan has made in recent weeks.
“I think people are concerned about which candidate has the experience and the credibility to clean up state government,” Ryan said. “And the central issue in this campaign is who is the real agent of change, who’s going to clean up this mess.”
Ryan specifically targeted Blagojevich’s campaign contributions and his work record. He again criticized Blagojevich for taking contributions from the Coalition for Better Government, a North Side fund-raising group that includes convicted felons Dominic Longo and John Boyle among its leadership.
Ryan held his news conference at the Illinois State Tollway Authority in suburban Downer’s Grove, a reference to Boyle’s 1992 conviction for stealing about $2 million in tollway funds.
“Rod Blagojevich willingly and knowingly accepted political support from a man who stole millions from the public and refuses to provide an explanation as to why,” Ryan said.
At a news conference Tuesday, Blagojevich addressed this accusation, which was originally made by Ryan last week. He said the coalition raises money for both parties, but would have no role in his administration. He also criticized Ryan for a TV commercial that wrongly called a third coalition member a convicted felon. The commercial has been taken off the air.
“He got his facts wrong,” Blagojevich said. “He’s been threatened with a libel suit and he may very well get sued.”
Ryan also repeated his charges that Blagojevich represented clients in court against the interest of the city during the period when he worked as a city employee.
Blagojevich said he never did so, though he handled “one or two” such cases in his private law practice at the time.
“There have never been any allegations of charges of inappropriate behavior by me when I was a staffer,” Blagojevich said Tuesday. “These are politically motivated allegations. Everything I did on that has been above the board.”
Ryan and Blagojevich will square off in their third gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m. Thursday. The debate will be broadcast on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program.