SPRINGFIELD -- A Lake County Democrat acknowledged Tuesday that a top aide to Pat Quinn contacted her about joining the race for Illinois lieutenant governor.
Although Quinn has refused to indicate his choice for a running mate, state Sen. Susan Garrett said the governor's chief of staff, Jerry Stermer, reached out to her before she applied to become the party's nominee.
"He called to see if I was interested," Garrett told reporters Tuesday. "And I think that it's OK for the governor to reach out to people and make sure if their name is being floated that before it's too late, that they have an opportunity to apply."
Garrett, a state lawmaker since 1999, is among 17 finalists to pass a screening by the Democratic Party's state central committee to determine who will fill the spot left vacant after Scott Lee Cohen ended his bid amidst controversy over domestic abuse and steroid use.
The winner will run with Quinn in the November general election against Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington and Edwardsville businessman Jason Plummer.
State Sen. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, also is among the finalists named by the committee. He said Garrett is probably in the top-tier of finalists.
"I suppose she is, if they are backing her," he said. "You kind of get conflicting message through the media. If she is, then she may be the front runner."
Unlike Garrett, Boland said he has not been contacted by Quinn or his top aides, but he has tried.
"All of us have probably sent communications to the governor, but none of us have ever gotten called back," he said.
Sheila Simon, another finalist, also said she doesn't believe she is a favorite. The law professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale believes Quinn's top pick is Garrett, according to The Southern Illinoisan.
Garrett, however, does not consider herself a front-runner and said she has not been contacted by Quinn.
"I'm cautiously optimistic but I wouldn't be surprised if [it] was not me," she said.
Quinn is expected to make an announcement regarding his top pick later in the week. The lieutenant governor candidate is expected to be chosen Saturday.