For a couple of years it was pretty clear that Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan was gearing up to run for governor in 2010. But over the last few months, as Illinois suddenly got a new Democratic governor with uncertain future prospects and a new Democratic U.S. Senator with dismal future prospects, all of the political equations around here have become a little murkier.
A few weeks go Madigan left open the possibility that she might run for Senate instead. And why not? Incumbent Roland Burris is widely viewed as a goner, and the lineup of other potential contestants—state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, RFK son and Merchandise Mart president Chris Kennedy, Urban League president Cheryle Jackson—is relatively well-funded but weak.
Sounds like the chances of a Madigan Senate run are getting even more serious. According to a couple of sources in the know, national Democratic leaders have approached Madigan and told her that electing her would be one of their top couple priorities for the 2010 election cycle. Fund-raising help has reportedly been promised by the top party leadership in the U.S. Senate—Madigan has nearly $4 million in her state campaign war chest but it can’t be transferred to a federal race—and the AG herself has commissioned a poll to gauge potential interest around the state.
Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler declined to comment, but the word is that Madigan is torn between what could be a relatively straightforward path to a Senate seat and a reluctance to have to leave her young kids behind as she schleps to DC.
Quite a bit hangs in the balance—politicians around the state are waiting to see what she does. The possibility that she might run for governor—and that her father, House speaker Mike Madigan, is already trying to help her do it by undermining Pat Quinn—is undoubtedly one of the reasons ethics reform has sputtered and budget talks are bogged down in Springfield.
Then there’s the game of musical chairs that will be under way as soon as she announces her intentions. State rep Julie Hamos is mulling a bid for AG, but may go for another statewide seat instead depending on Madigan’s plans. Cook County sheriff Tom Dart is keeping a high profile and has generated his own AG buzz. Comptroller Dan Hynes is holding a fund-raiser next week though he hasn’t said what he’s running for (AG? lieutenant governor? governor? mere re-election?). Giannoulias might decide it’s not wise to run in the same race as a woman with the name, money, and clout of Madigan. Others are eyeing all of their jobs if they leave them to run for something else.
I should also take note of another seat up for election just a few months after these, in early 2011, that none of these politicians, or any others of prominence, has openly discussed so far. The incumbent has been taking some major political hits lately. It’s the office of mayor of Chicago.
Lisa Madigan could alter the future of the city just by running for it and asking a few questions about, say, hiring policies, government transparency, financial management, and privatization deals. Will she? Would she?
Doubtful. When Ziegler recently confirmed that the AG was investigating the “transaction and implementation” of the city’s parking meter lease deal, she emphasized that the Daley administration was not part of the probe. Sounds like someone eager to let the public know she’s looking out for their interests–and just as eager to let the mayor know she’s not fighting against his.