Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lisa Madigan's announcement ripples the state's political pond

By Jamey Dunn

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to seek reelection instead of running for governor will have a ripple effect on the state’s political landscape.

Of course, Madigan decision not to run will affect the governor’s race. The popular attorney general has done well in the polls and was expected to be the front runner if she jumped into the governor’s race. Madigan announced yesterday that she would run again for her current office. In her written statement she cited her father Michael Madigan’s position as House speaker as one of the reasons for her decisions.

“For the last several months, I have considered the best way to continue serving the people of Illinois. Deciding whether to seek reelection or to run for governor has not been easy. I love my job as attorney general and continue to be excited about the important work we are doing and what we can do for people and families in the years ahead. I considered running for governor because of the need for effective management from that office and the frustration so many of us feel about the current lack of progress on critical issues facing Illinois,” Madigan said. “Ultimately, however, there has always been another consideration that impacts my decision. I feel strongly that the state would not be well-served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case. With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor.”

Gov. Pat Quinn has said in the past that a Madigan in the governor’s office and a Madigan as speaker would be a conflict of interest. He did not reiterate that opinion today when asked about Lisa Madigan’s decision. Instead, he praised her service as attorney general, the job she has held since 2003. “I think it was well-said,” Quinn said in Chicago today of Madigan’s statement.

With Madigan out of the way, Quinn’s only challenger is former White House chief of staff Bill Daley. Daley served as chief of staff under President Barack Obama and commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton. Despite his connections to national politics, most Illinois probably know him best from his family ties. He is the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the longest serving Chicago mayor to date, and son of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the second-longest serving mayor.

Quinn's comments today indicate that he may try to present Daley, who has also worked as a lawyer and a banker, as a rich insider while paying up his own populist credentials. “I think I’m quite a bit different than Bill Daley. He has a better tailor than I do.” Quinn said of himself: “I’m a people person. I think that anybody who has ever worked with me in public life knows that I interact with everyday people. I’m not going to be a champion of millionaires — everybody knows that. I fight hard for folks who don’t have lobbyists, who don’t have political action committees, who aren’t in high places, but they’re the heart and soul of Illinois.”

But when it comes to campaign funds, so far Quinn is Mr. Moneybags. According to campaign filings due yesterday, he raised $1 million between April 1 and June 30 and has $2.3 million to spend. Daley has raised more than $796,000. “I think that they understand we’re doing a good job,” Quinn said of his donors. “I think we ran a campaign in 2010 in a pretty tough environment and I won the primary won the general election. That’s what’s going to happen next year, too.”

Meanwhile, Daley has painted Quinn as an ineffective leader. “General Madigan's decision not to run now gives voters a clear choice between a proven leader who gets things done and a governor who can't seem to get anything done,” Pete Giangreco, spokesman for the Daley campaign, said in a written statement in reaction to Madigan’s announcement Monday.

Both candidates were likely happy to learn that Madigan is opting out of the race. Both face their own unique challenges in the Democratic primary: Quinn his unpopularity and Daley his unfamiliarity among voters outside of the Chicago area. “Daley has to go out and make public opinion, and Quinn has to change it,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.

At face value, Madigan’s decision seems to most benefit Daley, who can now paint himself as the only alternative to a governor many in the state dislike. However, he is an as of yet unproven candidate. If Daley was to fall in his face, all Quinn would have to do is step over him to secure the Democratic nomination now that Madigan is out of the picture. “It may be a huge plus for Quinn if Daley crashes and burns,” Redfield said.

For the Republicans, Redfield says Madigan’s decision may give all the four candidates a slight morale boost. “This may add a little bit of energy on the Republican side in general for the governor’s race because everybody sees a clearer path to being governor,” he said. But he cautioned, “If the Republicans eat each other alive and beat each other to death, so that it’s the last man standing, it may not make that much difference.”

Some members of the legislature may now be planning to stay put. “Where we thought we were going to open up a bunch of musical chairs here, open up a bunch of seats, it really kind of freezes everybody,” Redfield said. House Minority Leader Tom Cross had said he was weighing a run for the attorney general’s office if it were open. Now that it is not, he may need to work to soothe a caucus after many members have been vying behind the scenes to replace him. But since no clear successor exists, it appears likely he will hang onto his leadership position. “I think Cross probably maintains his leadership role, but again, that’s dependent on nobody becoming a viable alterative that can really bring everybody together,” Redfield said.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul was also considering a bid for Madigan’s office if she left. Raoul has been at the center of the two premier legislative debates of the spring session, concealed carry of firearms and finding a solution to the public employee pension crisis. He is chair of the conference committee that is working to draft pension legislation that the group hopes can pass in both chambers. Raoul publicly sparred with Quinn in recent weeks over Quinn’s attempted rewrite of concealed-carry legislation and the governor’s move to suspend lawmakers' pay until pension changes are passed. While the two agree on many policy points, Raoul has taken issue with Quinn’s leadership style. The populist moves that Quinn is playing up for the governor’s race are the decisions that are putting him at odds with lawmakers. Raoul called Quinn’s veto of lawmakers pay unconstitutional grandstanding. “Listen, I like the governor. I like the governor, but I just don’t like the communication I have experienced over the last few weeks,” he said after a recent conference committee hearing.

With Madigan out of the governor’s race, the Illinois political rumor mill is churning at full speed and spitting out names of potential Democratic candidates, Raoul among them. He says he weighing his options. But a gubernatorial bid from Raoul might risk his status as a rising star in the Senate for a long-shot bid at higher office. “He’s for sure going to be in the majority and for sure going to be an important player in the Senate,” Redfield said. He said that Madigan’s decision not to run could open the door for another Democrat to join the race, but he can’t think of an obvious candidate. “I’m hard-pressed to think who that would be. Is there an opportunity for someone who is not a white male from Chicago? Sure. But I don’t know who that is,” he said. “A state legislator is at a huge financial deficit in terms of being able to put together a campaign — not having name recognition, not having any kind of statewide network, not having any kind of statewide fundraising in place.”

 Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon was also reportedly mulling a run for the attorney general’s office. Several Chicago media outlets have reported today that she will instead announce a bid for state comptroller in the near future. She will be challenging incumbent Judy Baar Topinka, which could be an uphill climb, especially considering that Simon’s fundraising totals have been lackluster so far. “She needs to have a clear field [in the primary] and the support of the Democratic Party,” Redfield said about Simon. “Once you get into the general [election], then obviously the party is going to help you.”

Madigan’s bombshell announcement Monday will no doubt have a lasting impact on Illinois politics — for one thing it indicates her powerful father isn’t going anywhere — and the outcomes of the 2014 general election. But the results are nearly impossible to see as campaigns are just beginning to kick off. Perhaps Quinn said it best when asked today if he was taken aback by Madigan’s announcement. “I’m not surprised about anything in Illinois politics.”


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