WASHINGTON -- First, some news, for anyone wondering if Gov. Quinn, who replaced the ousted Gov. Blagojevich, will run in 2010.
"I have no reason not to run," Quinn told me when I asked him about the 2010 election.
"I think I am doing a good job today. I anticipate I will continue to do that. Stabilizing the ship of Illinois is vitally necessary. I think even in the first three-and-a-half weeks we've done a decent job of turning a page in an unhappy chapter in the state's history," Quinn said.
He is not in campaign mode though.
"Given the cataclysmic events, I don't think the people of Illinois want their governor devoting the lion's share of his time to political campaigning and planning for the political future. I think in this case the best politics are doing this job, this rescue mission properly with a complete focus on what's best for the common good."
Quinn, the former lieutenant governor sworn in Jan. 29, was here for his first National Governors Association conference and we talked on Monday.
He sipped a cup of tea while we chatted at a hotel restaurant and insisted on handing me $3 for it, turning down my offer to pay. Blagojevich rarely attended NGA meetings, and when he did, he arrived on a state plane. Quinn flew United, coach. He refuses to get new business cards; he just scratches out the word "lieutenant" on his old cards.
In a conversation with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, Quinn said she brought up her six years in Chicago. Her father, Sargent Shriver, was a one-time head of the Chicago Board of Education. Quinn invited her to visit Chicago to plug her cause, helping people receive the benefit of the Earned Income Tax Credit. "She said, 'I'll be there shortly.' "
Quinn was carrying a folder with papers on how states can maximize President Obama's economic stimulus plan. It's a potential lifeline for Illinois, facing a $9 billion budget hole.
Quinn arrived on Saturday and that night, in his hotel room, he viewed "Saturday Night Live," a rerun featuring a skit ruthlessly mocking Blagojevich.
"It was painful to watch it," Quinn said.
I asked him about his agenda for his first 100 days. Quinn wants to:
• • Travel around Illinois, visiting different cities and suburbs each week.
• • Install more government accountability measures.
At the root of the Illinois culture of corruption is jobs and contracts, traded for campaign contributions. Quinn faces a mighty task shutting it down. Quinn said he may add more internal auditors "whose job it is to monitor everything for honesty and taxpayer accountability."
• • Have more social events at the Executive Mansion with state House and Senate leaders and constitutional officers and their spouses to build relationships.
• • Install Obama-style "electronic democracy" government Web sites with social networking tools in order to "have a dialogue with the public."
• • Take on volunteerism as a cause, with programs run through the governor's office.
• • Consider creating a separate department to regulate the insurance industry.
• • Fill what Quinn called the "ocean" of vacancies to state boards and commissions. Quinn said he has two people on his staff vetting potential appointees.
• • Ask Pat Ryan, the chairman and CEO of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, to incorporate more of Illinois in Olympic planning. Quinn is having dinner with Ryan tonight.
Quinn was willing to engage when I asked him about a tax pledge. "I haven't ruled anything out," he said.
If he does a good job, Quinn said he did not see himself tarred as Blagojevich's running mate.
We talked about how his friends of decades -- David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel -- are now in the White House, as senior adviser and chief of staff to President Obama. And he is suddenly the governor.
Said Quinn, "I look out the window myself, in the governors mansion. 'Is this me?' It is sort of unlikely, where I am."