Madigan To Seek Reelection As Attorney General
June 4, 2009 (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)
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- WGN's Greg Jarrett talks to Attorney General Lisa Madigan about her decsion to not run for governor or senate.
- WGN's Greg Jarrett talks to Attorney General Lisa Madigan about her decsion to not run for governor or senate (Part 2).
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Courted by the White House to run for the U.S. Senate and widely viewed as a dominant Democratic contender for governor, Madigan instead surprised the political world by opting to try for a third term as attorney general next year.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan leaves the Sheraton Hotel with her husband, Pat Byrnes, today after a press conference announcing she will not run for U.S. senator or governor. (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)
The bright political future she and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, have spent more than a decade setting up as one of Illinois' most important political families will have to wait. Though a political veteran, Lisa Madigan is just 42.
Her decision to hit the brakes on a political ascent means plenty of other politicians from both parties are likely to step on the gas in the coming weeks. Voters should have no shortage of choices for governor and Senate.
Breathing much easier is Pat Quinn, the Democratic governor who inherited the office in late January after the impeachment and ouster of his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich. Quinn won't have Madigan to contend with in the February Democratic governor primary.
For her part, Madigan cast the decision as "agonizing."
Standing next to her husband, cartoonist Pat Byrnes, Madigan said she weighed the impact an office such as governor or Senate would have on her two daughters, ages 1 and 4. "I have a job that I love right now, and I also have a family that I love, and I plan on continuing to serve as your attorney general because I think it's absolutely vital to have an independent advocate in that office," Madigan said at a Chicago news conference.
She said the prospect of her father staying on as House speaker was not a factor. Steve Brown, a spokesman for Michael Madigan, said the speaker had no plans to issue a statement, but added that Lisa Madigan "has demonstrated she can make her own decisions."
But several of her father's allies said the attorney general had a good idea of how a race for governor might play out. In 2002, a relatively inexperienced state Sen. Lisa Madigan ran for attorney general in a contest where questions centered on whether her father would influence her decisions. The stakes in a governor's race would be even higher.
"If she were the governor and he was the speaker of the House, it could have been an issue," said state Sen. Louis Viverito (D-Burbank), a Madigan family ally for 37 years.
Combine family factors with political ones -- including a potentially nasty Democratic primary against Quinn -- and Lisa Madigan knew now was not the right time to go for the brass ring.
"You can now recognize that 'AG' doesn't always stand for 'aspiring governor,' " she told reporters.
Still, Madigan did not rule out running for higher office in four years.
"If those opportunities don't arise," she said, "I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the job as Illinois attorney general is extraordinarily satisfying and one that I am deeply committed to continuing to do."
Known as a cautious politician, there's also a practical side to Madigan's decision. In the post-Blagojevich world, next year might not turn out as well for Democrats as every statewide election since 2002. Blagojevich is set for trial next summer, only months before the November general election.
Madigan also is ducking the governor's race at time when many in her party want an income tax increase to balance a state budget gushing red ink. Raising taxes is never popular with the public and voters could cast heavy blame on Democrats who control state government for the unsightly money mess in Springfield.
Even though Speaker Madigan won high praise for leading lawmakers through the Blagojevich impeachment, critics partly blame him for Democrats being unable to reach a budget deal even though Blagojevich is no longer around to blame. Lisa Madigan acknowledged the political and financial dynamics at the Capitol are "difficult."
The speaker's toughest critics have maintained that he has intentionally gummed up the works in Springfield to paint Quinn as a weak leader to help his daughter. But an ally of the speaker said Lisa Madigan had decided against running for governor weeks ago. It was only recently that she entertained the Senate race after President Barack Obama, her seatmate in the Illinois Senate, asked her to think about running for the spot now held by Blagojevich-appointee Roland Burris.
Instead, Lisa Madigan is running for a third term as attorney general, a job where historically it's been difficult to look bad.
Standing in the way could be Republican DuPage County State's Atty. Joe Birkett, who said Wednesday he's staying in the race despite Madigan's unexpected decision to run again. Birkett narrowly lost to Madigan in the 2002 attorney general's race, meaning next year could be a rematch.
A victory in November 2010 and Madigan remains positioned for higher office in 2014.
"You never know [four years down the road] whether she's going to run for governor or whether she's going to run for something other than that," Viverito said. "But I'll guarantee she won't run for attorney general four years from now."
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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