At a press conference this afternoon, Lisa Madigan professed her love for her family, the people of Illinois, and her current gig as state attorney general while announcing that she plans to run for re-election next year—instead of making the high-percentage bid for governor or senator that most of the rest of the world expected.
“I can’t express how honored I am that others would consider me for either of these positions,” she said before a room of supporters and reporters in the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. “But I know that for now the best way for me to continue serving the people of Illinois is to continue doing the job that I love. And there is plenty to do.”
Upon questioning, Madigan said that she’d solicited advice and opinions from lots of people but ultimately decided that it was best for her family and the state if she tried to remain AG. In other words, she didn’t want to commute to Washington, and the state government is such a mess—in part, some of us would say, because of her father, House speaker Mike Madigan—that it made more sense to wait four years and see what’s up then.
“Life is long,” she said when asked about the possibility that she’ll go for the governor’s mansion down the road. “This is my decision now.”
Fair enough. But the main question I had as I listened to her—one she wasn’t capable of answering herself—was: why, exactly, is she considered the most popular politician in Illinois?
It’s not because of her remarkable public charisma or the way she can inspire a crowd.
“The progress we have made and the work that can still be done have been foremost on my mind…”
“With your continued support, I promise to keep making a difference…”
“AG doesn’t always stand for ‘aspiring governor.’”
Well, that’s a little better.
In 2002, during her first campaign for attorney general, opponents and commentators raised questions about Madigan’s limited experience as a practicing lawyer and politician. Many others were openly skeptical of her independence, given the fact that her father traded in favors, twisted arms, and mobilized troops to ensure her victory.
Since then, though, she’s impressed people by not being what many of them feared.
Critics charge—not unfairly—that Madigan hasn’t been aggressive enough in pursuing political corruption or seeking justice for victims of police torture. But most voters appear to notice that she’s young, articulate, energetic, and decent. She’s led those always-popular crackdowns on sex offenders, defective toys, and scam artists. She’s sought better open government laws and sued unscrupulous mortgage lenders. And best of all, she hasn’t been indicted.
“I promise those of you looking for leaders who will restore honesty and integrity to Illinois government, I will continue to fight for you,” Madigan said this afternoon.
That’s not quite the same as promising to be one of those leaders yourself, but around here it’s enough to be freaking golden.