SPRINGFIELD - Susan Garrett is the latest suburban politician to express interest in the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
The Lake Forest Democrat said she plans to attend a Chicago interview session on Saturday to be considered for the vacant post as Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate on the November ballot.
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More than 200 people have applied online for the nomination that's open because the voters' pick - Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen - gave it up amid growing personal controversy. Interview sessions are scheduled across the state, including in Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates, on Saturday.
Garrett said she'd talked to Quinn but doesn't know if she's the favored one the governor keeps referencing without ever naming.
"I'm not sure, and I mean that," she said. "Nobody has said to me I'm the front-runner."
Quinn remained mum on the topic Friday, telling reporters he'd make his wishes known before the Democratic Party votes on a nominee March 27. Asked if the pick should support his budget, Quinn said only that they should have a "basic agreement."
With the suburbs expected to be the key battleground in the upcoming governor's race, Garrett could bring a needed collar county presence to Quinn's campaign. As a woman, she'd also potentially shore up his weakness with female voters identified in recent polling.
Quinn previously sought out Tammy Duckworth to accompany him on the ballot. The Hoffman Estate Democrat and federal veterans advocate declined the invitation.
The Republican ticket consists of governor nominee Bill Brady, a Bloomington state senator, and lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer, a 27-year-old political newcomer from Edwardsville.
"It's a contrast. I will admit to that," Garrett, a 60-year-old Lake Forest native, said of her prospective candidacy. "The profile that I think the Quinn campaign is looking at is someone from the suburbs who's initiated serious reform efforts."
Garrett has frequently clashed with fellow Senate Democrats over ethical issues, mostly over her attempts to stop legislative pay raises that at times invited personal criticism from colleagues. She's also been a frequent critic of tollway management.
"The last thing I want from this process is to be divisive," Garrett said.
Garrett isn't a stranger to tough, high-priced campaigns. In 2002, she faced off against Republican state Sen. Kathy Parker in what was considered one of the key races to decide who would control the Illinois Senate. Garrett ultimately won, helping propel Democrats to control of the chamber.
Should she be selected, Garrett would offer somewhat of a contrarian view to Quinn's on taxes. While Quinn has made an income tax increase the cornerstone of his campaign, Garrett voted against the income and sales tax increase the Senate passed last year that eventually had Quinn's backing.
She was noncommittal regarding Quinn's latest push for a 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax to fund education and prevent more than $1 billion in cuts and pay down millions more in unpaid payments to school districts, colleges and universities.
"I'm a step-by-step person," Garrett said when asked whether she'd vote for Quinn's income tax increase.
But she did say she wanted to see pension reform and other efforts before considering tax increases.
Daily Herald staff writer Joseph Ryan contributed to this report.