First reported 10/8/2009 3:45 p.m.

Saying he didn’t have all the answers but would ask the questions his opponents won’t, Oak Park resident Edmund Scanlan announced his intention last week to run in the February Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The 59-year-old trial lawyer, who calls himself “a conservative Democrat,” presented a populist front as he made his announcement at a press conference in a downtown Chicago hotel, saying the state needs a governor who will work for all the people.

Scanlan, who celebrates his 60th birthday Thursday, grew up on the far south side of Chicago in the Beverly neighborhood and moved to Oak Park in 1975, with his new wife, Libby. They have lived in the St. Giles parish for 34 years. In 1976, he founded the Scanlan Law Group, a personal injury law firm.

The couple’s four grown children, Edmund, Jessica, Alison, and Claire, attended St. Giles School and Fenwick High School.

Scanlan said pension and campaign finance reform will form the primary pillars of his campaign, along with a vow to “run state government more like private business.” He also decried a political culture that is “an embarrassment” to the state.

“Our system is breaking and it’s breaking us,” he said.

Scanlon said he has never run for elected office before, and has “never collected a government paycheck.” While saying he generally respects many current elected officials, he contends they’re “locked in” to an old model of governance and won’t do what it takes to fix the state’s problems.

“It’s the same people who’ve had control of this state for way too long,” he said. “I don’t think they can have the discussion we need to have.”

Scanlan said he has a number of advisors already on board his campaign, and is currently circulating nominating petitions. He made the rounds of a number of events last weekend to introduce himself to the public. A fundraiser is scheduled for tonight, Oct. 14, at Kevil’s Restaurant in Forest Park.

Central to the discussion Scanlan wants to foster are how to deal with burgeoning pension obligations at both the state and local levels, which he called “unsustainable,’ and campaign finance reform.

Pensions, he said, have reached the point where they will dominate all other issues. Public service unions, he said, “have a stranglehold on the party.” He insisted his party “is bigger than that,” and vowed to return it to its roots, which he said are helping the poor and middle class.

“Theses are bold proposals, I know,” he said Thursday, noting that the Democratic party once had a history of bold moves.

“I don’t represent corporations,” he said Thursday afternoon. “My law practice is primarily regular people in difficult circumstances. I identify with them.”

State employee unions, he said, “are taking money from working poor and middle class people to give to people who are making six figures.” He noted that the state is currently expending $800 million per month in pension payments.

“It’s going to bankrupt this state,” he said, saying the issue is beginning to resonate with younger people, who are watching more and more of their income go to pension obligations.

“They’re very interested in this issue,” Scanlan said. He proposes honoring existing pension agreements, but eliminating pensions for all new state employees, replacing them with employer/employee funded retirement accounts similar to 401-k plans.

Scanlan appears to be actively wooing younger voters. Besides a Web site, Scanlan forgov.com, he has a Facebook page and is also using Twitter to get his message out.

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