Actor Martin Sheen and Governor Pat Quinn lead the annual Houby Day parade in Cicero last weekend.
  • Mick Dumke
  • Actor Martin Sheen and Governor Pat Quinn lead the annual Houby Day parade in Cicero last weekend.

People grew excited at the sight of Governor Pat Quinn and his entourage marching at the front of the parade.

“I love you, baby!” cried out a middle-age woman as she jumped to her feet and waved her hands. “Keep doing what you’re doing, baby! I love you, baby!”

As she extended her hand, the governor was already several strides up the road, waving a miniature American flag and calling out greetings to other families who’d come out for the Houby Day parade in Cicero and Berwyn last Sunday. Quinn was wearing a white sash signifying that he was the grand marshal of the event, which honors the mushroom harvest in Czech and Slovak culture.

He had lots of ground to cover. It was less than a month before the November 4 election, and he and Republican Bruce Rauner are in a tight, nasty race.

But the woman wasn’t upset—it turned out she wasn’t even addressing the governor. “Martin Sheen!” she shouted. “I love you, baby!”

Sheen slowed up, clasped the woman’s hand, and thanked her. He was campaigning with Quinn to call for raising the minimum wage. “It’s a social justice issue!” Sheen declared. “And someone who supports it is in a close race, and I’m going to help him.”

His adoring fan had other issues on her mind. “You look very handsome, Martin Sheen!”

Sheen smiled. “I thought you’d never mention it!”

Bringing along Sheen—an ally since Quinn signed legislation ending the state’s death penalty three years go—was either a smart way to catch voters’ attention, or an admission that the governor is easily upstaged, and probably both.

That’s not to say that Quinn wasn’t getting any love. He stopped so many times to shake hands, pose for photos, and hold babies that he soon fell several blocks behind the band and military trucks leading the way, which clogged the lineup of floats behind him.

Quinn has been dismissed as an accidental governor and a political weakling who doesn’t exactly inspire excitement or awe—but it’s also true that lots of people think they can go right up to him, the holder of the highest office in the state, and tell him what they think about the important issues of the day.

Such as . . . football. “Go Bears!” called out a man from his folding chair, lifting his can of Miller Lite in salute. The governor raised his fist.

A woman ran up to him. “Thank you for standing up for working families,” she told him.

Quinn beamed. “We’re going to raise that wage!”

“Hey look!” hollered a teenage girl nearby. “It’s Charlie Sheen’s dad!”

Quinn kept going. As a veteran politician who’s run for office nearly every election cycle for three decades, he clearly relished the chance to march among the masses, far from the mudslinging of the campaign or questions about misspent grants on his watch.

“Good to see you, good to see you, good to see you, good to see you, all right!” Quinn said, both to well wishers and to dumbfounded children who appeared to be wondering when the mushroom-themed floats were going to appear. The governor literally reached out to so many people that his sash broke before the parade was half over. He handed it to an aide and marched on.

“We better talk to people on the other side!” he said to no one in particular, and darted across the road.

He was intercepted by a giant bird—or, more specifically, by a supporter with a striking blue, green, and yellow parrot perched on his arm. It was at least two feet tall.

That was a new one, even for Quinn. “Oh,” he said. “We’ve got a parrot.”

This clearly needed to be photographed. Quinn moved closer for the shot, but not too close.

“Whatever it takes,” he said.