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07/09/2009

Father Knows Best

Attorney General  Lisa Madigan made only one choice this week:  She decided not to run for a United States Senate seat from Illinois.  It's a job she never really wanted because the travel demands would wreak havoc on her young family, and the former state senator has previously indicated she doesn't like the working life of a legislator.

Her other "decision", not to launch a campaign for governor—the office for which she's been groomed—was actually made FOR Madigan by political and family circumstances beyond her control.

  Lisa's father is longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also chairman of the state’s Democratic party.   By consensus, Mike Madigan is the single-most powerful player in Springfield.   After 39 years in the House and nearly three decades as Speaker, he is renowned for his low profile and rarely "speaks" to reporters.  But when Madigan does, he likes to remind us that he was one of the first and most outspoken critics of Rod Blagojevich and that it was his chamber that passed the article of impeachment that led to the former governor's ouster.

But with Pat Quinn now residing in the Governor's mansion, not much appears to have changed in Springfield.  Blagojevich era dysfunction is as rampant as ever, with Madigan unable or unwilling to get his party's majority on the same page regarding the state's $9 bilion deficit.  And the Speaker, in another throwback to the Blago years, has resorted to name-calling.

Earlier this month he criticized the governor's negotiation style, describing Quinn as a "flip-flopper".  (The Governor says he changes positions during budget talks with legislative leaders like Madigan as an act of compromise—one that never seems to work)


On July 3rd, State Senator James Meeks, proclaiming he is not afraid of the all-powerful state party boss, said Madigan puts politics over the common good and has been "part of the problem" in Illinois government.  In off-the-record conversations, I have spoken to well over a dozen other state lawmakers who share that view.

That brings us back to the Attorney General's "decision" not to enter the Governor's race.   If, as one poll indicates, she could beat the unelected Quinn in the democrat primary next February, it would not be the "free ride" her party boss father would prefer.  A Quinn/Madigan tilt for the nomination would be a bitter, expensive (for Madigan), and divisive intra-party battle.

But the bigger question is, could Lisa Madigan beat a credible republican candidate in November, 2010?  With her father still in control of the House and his profile raised by the Blagojevich impeachment and the persistent budget mess, the "daddy factor" could become a major issue in the race.  Voters would be asked if they want two-thirds of their state government controlled by Madigans.    I can see the GOP "Royal Family" attack ads already.


Bottom line:  Lisa Madigan didn't run for governor because there's a chance she can't win.    At least not now...with the REAL power in the House of Madigan making so much news.

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