- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) - Congressman-elect Mike Quigley is known for being an independent, reform-minded politician, but he learned politics the old-school Chicago way.

Quigley worked for Alderman Bernie Hansen in the 1980s running his ward office and learning real-life political lessons about meat-and-potatoes services to constituents, like making sure the garbage gets picked up and abandoned cars are towed away.

That training will come in handy in Congress, where Quigley, a former Cook County commissioner, was set to be sworn in Tuesday. He won a special election to replace Rahm Emanuel representing Illinois’ 5th Congressional District _ a mix of wealthy, working-class and ethnic neighborhoods stretching from Chicago’s North Side lakefront to the northwest suburbs.

“If I didn’t work for Bernie, I wouldn’t have always thought, ‘How does this hit the street?’” Quigley said.

A Chicago Democrat, Quigley will fill the remainder of Emanuel’s two-year term that started in January. Emanuel resigned to become President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Quigley isn’t whom most people would picture as a “Chicago politician.” He’s a policy wonk who used to teach political science, with a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Chicago’s Loyola University.

But like Emanuel, who is famous for his blunt talk and tough manner, the 50-year-old Quigley can practice a brand of Chicago street politics that includes a well-honed ability to wheel and deal and a penchant for saying what he means.

“No one would accuse Mike of being subtle. He’s very direct. … If you’re the victim of one of his barbs, you’ll know it,” said Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, a friend of Quigley’s.

In Cook County, Quigley has been a vocal critic of board president Todd Stroger for presiding over the same clout-heavy bureaucracy Stroger’s late father ran. Last year, Quigley blasted Stroger, a fellow Democrat, when a federal court monitor said political patronage let unqualified people get government jobs at the county.

“It’s basically the same crew that’s always been here. It’s the same mentality, it’s the same culture and the actions are the same,” Quigley said at the time.

But Quigley concedes that his time on the Cook County board also taught him how to be “one of the boys” to get things done.

That has meant trying to help out other commissioners by supporting their projects or giving them measures to sponsor when they were looking to win support from Quigley’s loyal base.

“You got to be willing to wheel and deal a little bit,” Quigley said. “That does not mean you sell your soul. It doesn’t mean you support something that you wouldn’t otherwise support, but there are accommodations.”

On Capitol Hill, Quigley has said his priorities will include environmental issues, human rights and universal health care. He also has been a staunch supporter of gay rights, pushing measures that extended same-sex benefits to county workers and created a domestic partner registry in the county that includes Chicago.

Quigley didn’t grow up in his adopted hometown of Chicago. He was born in Indianapolis and moved to the Chicago suburb of Carol Stream when he was in the second grade and his father got a job transfer.

Quigley got a good introduction to Chicago when he was 17 and his sister helped him get a summer job working at a shelter for battered women.

“I’d never seen poverty before, never saw people with no place to go,” Quigley said.

More than 20 years since they worked together, Hansen, who retired from the City Council in 2002, said he’s confident Quigley, his former right-hand man, will succeed in Washington.

“When I needed something done and done right, it was ‘Hey Michael,’” Hansen recalled.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide