Gov. Quinn is campaigning for re-election on a promise to raise the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour. He said it would be worth about $2,800 a year to each minimum wage worker in Illinois.
Thursday's event with actor Martin Sheen was the first time local voters have seen the governor since he flew to California to meet with Gov. Jerry Brown and raise re-election campaign contributions in Hollywood.
It's the first time we've had a chance to ask the governor about - among other things - the scathing criticism contained in an official state audit of his controversial $54 million anti-violence program.
Sheen played President Bartlett on the very successful TV show "The West Wing." The two have been a mutual admiration society for years. Sheen personally lobbied Quinn to sign legislation abolishing the death penalty in 2011. Quinn later honored him by proclaiming a "Sheen Day." Sheen said he's been an actor all his life, but activism motivates him.
Quinn and Sheen warmly praised each other on Thursday while pressing for a higher minimum wage, saying that raising the $8.25 rate is a moral issue. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Opponents say the boost to more than $10 would hurt businesses and prompt them to lay off workers.
But reporters asked about the governor's anti-violence initiative on Thursday, launched just a few weeks before Quinn narrowly won his first full term in 2010. Millions of dollars went to political insiders. The auditor general said some was apparently not spent on violence prevention at all. There was no open, public request for proposals.
Earlier this morning, State Senate President John Cullerton spoke to the Union League Club about Illinois's economy and unemployment. He argued the state's doing a lot better on creating new jobs than what is claimed by people he called "Illinois-bashers."
Part of Sen. Cullerton's argument is that Illinois has a higher percentage of its total population in the work force than most states do, which he said tends to drive up the unemployment rate. That rate, by the way, remains the worst in the Midwest and third-worst in America.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.