Rod Blagojevich Defeats Jim Ryan to Become Governor of Illinois

How can you replace one Ryan with another Ryan and call that change? You want change? Elect a guy named Blagojevich.”

— Rod Blagojevich

The 2002 Illinois gubernatorial election pitted Congressman Rod Blagojevich and state Attorney General Jim Ryan. Rod Blagojevich won 52% to 45%.

In 2002, Blagojevich ran for his party's nomination to become governor. Blagojevich won a close primary campaign against former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, whose base was largely African-American voters, and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas, who ran strong in the suburban "collar" counties of Chicago. Blagojevich won the primary largely by dominating the downstate Illinois (i.e., outside Chicago and the collar counties) vote.[citation needed]

In the general election, Blagojevich defeated Republican Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan handily (Ryan chose to run for Governor instead of running again for the Attorney General position, which is now held by Lisa Madigan). Ethics scandals had plagued the previous administration of Republican George Ryan (no relation to Jim), and Blagojevich's campaign focused on the theme of "ending business as usual" in state government.

Public disdain for Ryan -- or at least his name -- seemed to help Blagojevich, now in his second term, win the governorship. His GOP opponent was Jim Ryan, the then state attorney general, and Blagojevich routinely linked Jim Ryan with the unpopular George Ryan. The two are not related.