The legacy of former Gov. Dan Walker may be his election, not what he did or didn’t accomplish in office. Walker died Wednesday at the age of 92 from heart failure. One of his successors, former Gov. Jim Edgar, says Walker’s win in the 1972 Democratic gubernatorial primary over then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon was a turning point in Illinois politics, since Simon was the candidate backed by powerful Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
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“Used to be if Mayor Daley tapped you, that was all you needed, but Paul Simon, who was, in his own right, viewed as an independent somewhat, to have Daley’s support and still get beat, that definitely shocked everyone,” Edgar said.
Walker then went on to beat incumbent Gov. Richard Ogilvie. He was later defeated in the 1976 Democratic primary by Daley’s candidate, then-Secretary of State Michael Howlett, who went to lose to Jim Thompson.
The problem with Walker’s time in office, according to Edgar, was he seemed to continue his populist campaign after he became governor, and as a result, found little support in the General Assembly. What shouldn’t define Walker’s legacy, according to Edgar, is his 1987 conviction for fraudulently obtaining $1.4 million in bank loans.
“I wasn’t there, I’m not a lawyer, but from talking to people, if he had not been a former governor, I doubt he’d have ever been indicted on those charges,” Edgar said.
Walker was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, but served less than 18 months.
Former Gov. Pat Quinn worked in Walker’s administration. “He fervently believed in the power of democracy and the importance of including everyone in our democracy,” Quinn said in a statement. “He loved his family and leaves behind many friends. His patriotism, service and compassion will never be forgotten.”