Governor Pat Quinn will forever occupy a unique place in Illinois’ history. He was the only lieutenant governor to take office after his predecessor was impeached and removed from office. He was the first governor to choose his own running mate. And he took over as governor during one of the worst economic crises our state has faced since the Great Depression.

Although he came up short in his re-election effort, the voters I met with almost universally viewed him as an honest, hard-working public servant.

I’ve known Pat Quinn for many years. He was lieutenant governor when I first took office in 2003, and he has been my constituent for the entire time I’ve been a state senator. I personally believe he is honest; he is intelligent; he is decent; and he is diligent. His dedication to this state runs deep, and his commitment to improving every resident’s quality of life is genuine.

I’m disappointed that Pat lost, but his legacy should be, and I believe will be, defined by the many accomplishments we achieved under his leadership as Governor.

We abolished the death penalty.

We brought marriage equality to Illinois.

We honestly confronted the pension crisis that has hobbled our state budget for longer than most of us have been alive.

We defended need-based financial aid for university students.

We enacted landmark education reform and environmental protection laws that have been hailed as national models.

We brought health insurance to thousands of low-income adults.

We made the largest investment in Illinois’ roads and bridges ever.

We enacted honest and balanced budgets that funded our pension obligations and paid our bills.

Despite the fact that it may have cost him the election, he made real progress to bring Illinois out of the Great Recession. Under his watch, our unemployment rate has gone down dramatically. Over the past year, we experienced the biggest drop in unemployment of any state — from 9.1% to 6.6%.

I hope that Governor Quinn continues to take pride in his accomplishments, and I know that he will still be an active voice for veterans, the disenfranchised and the poor. I want to thank him for his long years of service to our state, and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.

I hope we will continue to take Pat Quinn’s work ethic to heart and do our best to continue to make the will of the people the law of the land.

Democrat Don Harmon, a lifelong resident of Oak Park, is Illinois Senate President Pro Tempore. He was elected Nov. 4 to a fifth term as senator representing the 39th District, which includes parts of Chicago, suburban Cook County, including Oak Park, and DuPage County.

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