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Vallas On Blagojevich: ‘Illinois Has Deserved Better’

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Former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas (right), with former mayoral candidate Gery Chico. (Credit/File Photo: Craig Dellimore/WBBM)

Former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas (right), with former mayoral candidate Gery Chico. (Credit/File Photo: Craig Dellimore/WBBM)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The man who almost kept Rod Blagojevich out of the governor’s mansion a decade ago now says it’s sad to see what the now-imprisoned governor did to the state.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, former Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Paul Vallas said, “Illinois has deserved better.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Vallas came close to beating Blagojevich in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2002.

But Blagojevich won, and was reelected to a second term four years later – only to be arrested while still in office in December 2008, convicted of 18 counts of corruption last year, and sentenced to a 14-year prison term that he began serving last week.

Vallas says it’s hard not to think about what might have been if he had been elected governor instead.

“Things could have really been different, and it’s really too bad,” Vallas said.

Vallas said Blagojevich’s tenure in Illinois left devastating problems.

“Things have certainly progressed regressed considerably over the last 10 years,” he said.

Still, Vallas prefers not to dwell on the past. He says his loss in the governor’s race left him to pursue important roles, including rebuilding the schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and those in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Vallas’ term as CPS chief executive began in 1995, when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley took direct control the school system and overhauled its governance structure. He resigned in 2001 to run for governor, and was replaced by Arne Duncan, who went on to become U.S. Education Secretary.

After losing to Blagojevich, Vallas took over the school system in Philadelphia. He considered returning to Illinois to run for governor in 2006, but decided not to do so.

In 2008, Vallas said he planned to run as a Republican in the 2010 race for Cook County Board president, but again later changed his mind.

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