(Reuters) - Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the son and brother of former mayors of Chicago, announced on Monday he is dropping out of the race for Illinois governor in 2014, according to a spokesman for his campaign.
The 65-year-old Democrat, who has served on two presidential administrations, was not ready for the “enormity” of his first bid for political office, said Peter Giangreco, a spokesman for his campaign.
“He got into this race and realized the enormity of ... committing five to nine years of his life because that is what it’s going to take to dig Illinois out of this deep, deep hole we’re in,” Giangreco said.
Daley, who launched his campaign in July, was critical of Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, saying the governor has failed to lead a state facing a financial crisis over mounting costs of public sector pensions. Illinois faces an unfunded pension liability of some $100 billion and has the lowest debt rating among the states.
Daley’s exit from the race leaves Quinn as the only major candidate running in the Democratic primary in March. Quinn was the lieutenant governor before being appointed governor when Democrat Rod Blagojevich was impeached and ultimately removed from office by Illinois lawmakers in 2009. Quinn won the gubernatorial election in 2010.
Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence, was the second Illinois governor in a row to have been convicted of federal corruption charges.
Four Republicans have jumped into the race for Illinois governor - wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner, Illinois State Treasure Dan Rutherford, and state Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard.
The race for governor is expected to be extremely competitive. In the 2010 general election for governor, Quinn defeated Brady by less than 1 percent of the vote.
Quinn has been dogged by poor poll numbers and at one point in 2012 was the most unpopular governor in the United States, according to Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling.
Since then, Quinn has made some popular moves such as suspending the pay of legislators over their failure to fix problems with the state’s public pension system.
Daley served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff for a year until January 2012. He was U.S. Commerce Secretary during the second term of former President Bill Clinton and chaired the Midwest operations of JP Morgan Chase from 2004 until he took the job in the Obama White House.
Daley is the son of a legendary Chicago mayor, the late Richard J. Daley, and the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Jackie Frank