After months of speculation about her future plans, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has both cleared the air and confused the situation.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan threw the state's political handicappers for a loop this week when she announced that she won't seek the Democratic nomination for governor, preferring instead to run for re-election.
Madigan's decision throws a monkey wrench into the plans of her fellow Democrats and Republicans who had made tentative plans to run for attorney general, but only if the popular Madigan ran for governor.
Her decision was not a huge surprise. Months ago, it seemed virtually certain that Attorney General Madigan would try to move up to the governor's office. But doubts started to creep in as more and more time passed by without an announcement. Her reason for not running, however, was a surprise because it is the first time she publicly acknowledged what many people have been saying for months.
"I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case. With Speaker (Michael) Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor," she said.
Madigan is correct — it would be unwise to have daughter and father serving as governor and speaker of the House. What's left unsaid in the daughter's statement is to what extent she was pushing her father to step aside after 40 years in the Illinois House, the vast majority of that time as the all-powerful speaker.
It's been clear for months that the popular attorney general was giving strong consideration to seeking her party's nomination. She confirmed her interest on numerous occasions. So the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that she was hoping and/or pushing for Dadigan to go, his response being to push back and refuse to go anywhere.
If that was the substance of their discussion, the Madigans kept it well beneath the surface. Indeed, both Madigans have stated publicly that it would not pose a problem for her to be governor and him to be House speaker.
"He wouldn't have to step down," Attorney General Madigan said just a month ago.
Nothing changed since she made that statement, except for Attorney General Madigan's decision to acknowledge the elephant in the corner of the room.
In electing to remain in his role as the state's most powerful politician, Speaker Madigan continues a long Chicago tradition of politicians fighting to hang on to their power, their perks and their prestige for as long as possible.
Fortunately for him and unfortunately for the people of Illinois, Speaker Madigan is unaccountable and untouchable. He's one of the architects of the state's disastrous condition, yet there is not even the slightest thought among Speaker Madigan's fellow Democrats that his time has come and gone.
He's the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, and he can make or break careers. As House speaker, he controls campaign funds that House Democrats need to run for re-election. He can reward members of his party caucus with perks and extra pay for falling in line or punish them severely if they show any sign of not being a rubber stamp. Further, Speaker Madigan's political reach is infinite, as recent revelations in the unfolding scandal surrounding Metra in Chicago demonstrate.
It's no sure thing that Attorney General Madigan would have won the Democratic nomination for governor. Gov. Pat Quinn is a political survivor who should not be counted out. William Daley, the son and brother of two Chicago mayors, has access to unlimited funds and campaign support. They might have roughed her up in the primary election. But there is no doubt she would have been a formidable candidate in next year's primary and general election.
In opting out, Attorney General Madigan showed the good judgment of not asking voters to accept her and her father in the important role of governor and speaker. It may have been a difficult decision to make, but given her father's intransigence, it was the right one.