OAK BROOK, Ill., July 8 (UPI) -- Attorney General Jim Ryan Monday urged Gov. George Ryan to "start seriously thinking about resigning" to prevent the scandal involving the governor's stewardship of the secretary of state's office from sinking the party in the November general election.
The attorney general, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, made his comments as the state GOP scrambled to appoint a new chairman. State House Speaker Lee Daniels stepped down as an investigation over alleged political work by his legislative staff got under way.
"I think he (George Ryan) should start seriously thinking about resigning," Ryan said after lobbyist Dallas Ingemunson was appointed interim chairman. "I think he should explain his role in all this or step down.
"I don't know how he explains presiding over, frankly, one of the most corrupt administrations in our state."
The governor issued a statement saying he has no intention of resigning.
"I have no reason to resign," the governor said.
George Ryan has been under scrutiny for months as the result of a federal investigation into the sale of driver's licenses in exchange for bribes while he was secretary of state. Ryan repeatedly has denied any knowledge of corruption in his administration but indictments have reached into his inner circle and there has been speculation he is the "Official A" cited in the indictment of political fixer Don Udstuen as having participated in a $2.8 million kickback scheme.
The investigation was touched off by a 1994 Wisconsin traffic accident. More than 50 people have been indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty in what has become known as the license-for-bribes scandal, Operation Safe Roads in the U.S. attorney's lexicon, which broke in the wake of the horrific traffic accident that took the lives of six of a Chicago minister's children. The driver of the truck involved in the tragedy had obtained his license illegally.
Ingemunson agreed to take the helm of the party after other prominent Republicans -- including former Gov. Jim Edgar and former Quaker Oats Chairman William Smithburg -- turned down the post.
Ingemunson said there is a perception out there that the party is in trouble. Jim Ryan, however, maintained the party "is not in disarray."
The governor's office has been in Republican hands since 1976. The licenses-for-bribes scandal is seen as the best chance Democrats have had in years for seizing the top state job.