Republican Kirk Dillard recently raised the issue of which kind of family ought to be living in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. It is a question we ventilated in in 2009. (“Life in the Big House.) Clearly, it was not a question on the minds of the two most recent occupants of the house. Mr. Blagojevich famously disdained it (for the kids’ sake, he insists). Of late Mr. Quinn has avoided it too, and he’s a man who stays in Super 8s when he travels on state business.
Not every Illinois governor has hated the Executive Mansion. Richard Yates the Younger lived there twice, once while his father ran the state during the Civil War and again when he was governor himself from 1901 to 1905. In fact, he liked living in a mansion so much he had a nicer one built for himself which still stands, handsomely restored, on Williams Boulevard.
As I noted in “Certain-kind-of-family guy,” Dillard's remarks were widely interpreted as demeaning to two of his opponents, bachelors Pat Quinn and Dan Rutherford. In fact, a bachelor might be the best candidate of all. Jim Thompson in the days before he married Jayne was probably happier there that anyone before or since, but it took his out-sized personality to fit an out-sized house. In contrast, very few of the families who’ve had to live in the mansion in the modern era have been happy there. Drinking problems, infidelities, mental instability in First Families have been common, and just about every governor since Stevenson got away from it whenever they could.
So, I will guess, would Mr. Dillard if he finds himself the next governor. I know a little bit about his hometown of Hinsdale, rather more about Chicago's western suburbs of which Hinsdale is one, and quite a lot about Springfield. Schools, shopping, amusements – all will be inferior to what the Dillards are used to.
I’m convinced that most Illinois voters would not expect a governor’s family to make such sacrifices in order to take up an essentially symbolic residence in Springfield. I for one would think less of any governor who did.