Madigan, Daley want Quinn out
Theatrics has been big part of our state's political landscape.
Politics always trumps policy in Illinois. That's one reason why this state is in such sad shape.
But it also is a good reason to watch our political masters maneuver for position. What they do in off years often is a prelude to political and policy debacles to come.
That's why last week was a huge week in state politics as it relates to the primary election for governor in March 2014.
Democratic Party powerbrokers have never had much use for Gov. Pat Quinn, the incumbent who became governor when his predecessor was impeached and then won election on his own in 2010. Quinn is a dyed-in-the-wool Democratic Party pol, but he's not a Chicago Machine Democrat and never will be.
Quinn has bucked party leaders too many times to be considered trustworthy, and they want him gone. But who would take his place?
This is where it gets interesting. William Daley, the brother and son of two former Chicago mayors, says he's thinking of running against Quinn in the primary. Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan, daughter of House Speaker Michael Madigan, says she's thinking of running as well.
A Daley against a Madigan? What a deliciously brutal party fight that would be, the scions of two powerful, ruthless political families going head to head. But don't get your hopes up: It probably won't happen.
Instead, one will try to scare the other off, a process already under way.
Last week, Daley, the former White House chief of staff to President Obama, suggested that it would be inappropriate for Lisa Madigan to run for governor while her father is the House speaker.
"I'm not giving them advice. I assume they would have to deal with that up front," Daley said. "She would be smart enough politically. ... She'd have to answer (reporters) when you say, 'How does this work?' Then the voters have to decide whether they buy it."
Daley said one reason he hasn't run for governor of Illinois before is that his brother was the mayor of Chicago, and it wouldn't be appropriate for one brother to be governor and another mayor.
Set aside for a moment the irony of Daley, a member of a powerful political family whose roots go deep into city, state and national politics, complaining about someone from another political family, the Madigans in this case, having a conflict of interest.
But Daley is right about the perceptions. There's no law against Dad being the House speaker and Daughter in the governor's office, so it would all come down to how the voters see it.
Frankly, it's hard to imagine voters in Illinois suddenly getting picky about whom they elect to state office.
The Madigans, of course, see no problem with Lisa's candidacy.
"Why not," said Speaker Madigan last summer.
Last week, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the issue of Lisa Madigan and her father working side by side is long settled.
"That was effectively dealt with 10 years ago when voters overwhelmingly elected Lisa to attorney general," Brown said.
Not everyone sees it that way. The Chicago Tribune editorialized that Speaker Madigan should resign from the Legislature if his daughter runs for governor. Gov. Quinn raised the specter of official corruption if Lisa Madigan runs for governor with her dad running the Legislature.
This will take a while to play out. In the meantime, what does Madigan do?
The notoriously circumspect House speaker could work with Quinn to help restore the state to a semblance of fiscal health. That would make it easier for his daughter to govern if she was elected. Or does Speaker Madigan sabotage Quinn's efforts to make him look bad and in need of replacement by his daughter, not a Daley?
The intrigue is almost Shakespearean as the stage is set for an epic showdown between rival political fiefdoms. It's almost enough to make people forget that Illinois is in a state of financial ruin.