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Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is one of the most unpopular governors in the country, with abhorrent approval ratings in Illinois.
He’s not a big hit on Capitol Hill either. But, so far, neither is his new primary opponent, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.
Many Illinois Democrats in Congress are staying far away from the gubernatorial primary, according to a survey of the delegation by CQ Roll Call. The primary could prove pivotal for some Illinois Democrats, whose political future will depend on the gubernatorial race topping their ticket.
But even members who know both candidates, such as freshman Rep. Tammy Duckworth, declined to choose sides.
“I have a lot of friends in the race,” Duckworth said in between votes on Wednesday. “Right now I have no plans” to endorse.
Duckworth worked for the Quinn administration as his director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She’s also accepted campaign cash from Daley, who records show donated the maximum contribution to her House race last cycle.
Other Democrats echoed Duckworth, including Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin. His spokesman said via email that Durbin “isn’t going to get involved in the primary.”
Rep. Danny K. Davis proved the exception by saying he backed Quinn for re-election. But many of his Illinois colleagues said they were staying out of the race for now.
Freshman Rep. Bill Enyart “doesn’t plan on any primary endorsements in the foreseeable future,” according to his spokesman. The same goes for Reps. Bill Foster and Cheri Bustos, both of whom could face tough races in 2014.
“Congresswoman Bustos plans to stay neutral in the primary and has exactly one focus right now and that is serving the people of Illinois’ 17th congressional District,” Bustos spokesman Colin Milligan said.
Other Democrats in the delegation did not return requests for comment.
Many Illinois members might wait until the primary field is complete before backing a candidate, cautioned state Democratic consultants. Popular state Attorney General Lisa Madigan has not said yet whether she will join the race.
In the past, Madigan has eschewed bids for other statewide offices. In 2010, the White House wooed her to run for Senate without success. But if she enters the gubernatorial race, her candidacy would heighten what’s already predicted to be a competitive and brutal primary.
“Chances are, if all of those players get in, I would say ugly might be an understatement,” said Ann Liston, a Democratic consultant based in Chicago.