Three years ago, former Chicago schools chief Paul G. Vallas left Illinois for the East Coast, not long after coming up 25,000 or so votes short of victory in the state’s Democratic primary for governor.
Now it seems that at least one familiar supporter wants him to forsake his job leading the Philadelphia schools to go back to the Prairie State and give it another try.
According to reports in the Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dean Vallas, the brother of the former candidate, is trying to clear potential constitutional hurdles for the schools chief to run for governor next year, most likely against a fellow Democrat, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. Mr. Blagojevich, formerly a member of Congress, defeated Mr. Vallas and a former state attorney general in the party’s primary in 2002 before winning the general election.
One problem: Paul Vallas says he has no intention of entering the 2006 governor’s race and is committed to remaining in his job as chief executive officer of the 190,000-student Philadelphia schools at least until his contract expires in 2007. “I’m not planning on returning to Illinois and running for governor,” Mr. Vallas said in an interview last week. “I still have some supporters there—including some family members. They want me to keep my options open.”
Dean Vallas could not be reached for comment last week.
The Philadelphia chief confirmed that his brother and other backers are exploring ways to challenge an Illinois constitutional mandate that requires a candidate for governor to reside in the state for three years prior to the election in question.
While Mr. Vallas said he supports that challenge (he called the residency requirement “ridiculous”), he affirmed that he would not be testing it during the 2006 race.
An Illinois native who said he most recently lived in Beverly, a neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side, Mr. Vallas acknowledged that he would like to return to the state someday. But on the idea of leaving Philadelphia before the end of his contract, he said: “I need two or three years to complete the job.”
Critics, including some Democrats, have accused Gov. Blagojevich this year of not doing enough to increase school funding in Illinois and make it more equitable.
Mr. Vallas declined to weigh in on that issue. “For me to start commenting on Illinois school funding issues would make me a candidate,” he said, even if he is determined not to be one.