Madigan kicks off whirlwind

Madigan kicks off whirlwind

Illinois politicians, mostly Democrats, are scrambling for a chance to get to succeed Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Attorney General Madigan's recent announcement that she's decided — after four terms and 16 years — to step down from public office shook up the political status quo in Illinois.

But the ground-shaking disclosure was not so overwhelming that stunned-but-ambitious politicians, particularly in Madigan's Democratic Party, didn't almost immediately start planning their efforts to succeed her.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Scott Drury announced that he's dropping his longshot campaign for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination to seek its nomination to succeed Madigan.

"The time has come to clean up Illinois," said Drury, a Democrat from Highwood. "For too long, Illinois has been defined by corruption and self-dealing. We are going to restore people's trust in government by showing that no one is above the law and making sure that every Illinois citizen is treated fairly."

Drury, a former federal prosecutor, has made a name for himself during his brief tenure in the Illinois House as the sole Democrat to stand up against House Speaker Michael Madigan's one-man rule of that chamber. For that, he has been ostracized by Madigan and his henchmen but certainly not silenced.

It remains to be seen if Drury can put together a credible campaign to win his party's nomination. But let there be no doubt, he is a credible candidate for this important office.

Despite his being persona-non-grata with Madigan's countless supplicants, Drury's anti-corruption, anti-Speaker Madigan message will resonate with thousands of Democrats and Republicans across Illinois' 102 counties.

While Drury is the only Democrat who's officially in the AG's race, others are circling — not all of them welcome.

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke reportedly is sending the word out that he's pushing one of his two lawyer daughters to succeed Madigan. Why not? Aren't important statewide offices in Illinois intended to be parceled out by a loving father to a dutifully ambitious daughter?

That was, after all, the way Lisa Madigan got elected many years ago. Dadigan forced her on the Democratic Party as its candidate for attorney general and then moved heaven and earth to get her elected in a close race with Republican Joseph Birkett, then the state's attorney of DuPage County and now an appellate court justice.

Lisa Madigan, despite her relative lack of experience, turned out to be a competent and conscientious attorney general. But voters are pushing their luck by relying on powerful fathers to pick their public officials.

Whatever the Burkes ultimately decide to do, there will be a contested Democratic Party primary.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, another Chicago Democrat, announced Wednesday that he's running for attorney general — even though a day earlier, he showed why he lacks the proper temperament to do the job.

Speaking on a Chicago radio program, he got into a verbal argument with show co-host Maze Jackson about not answering a question Raoul was asked.

Maze: OK, answer the question, just go ahead.

Raoul: You're not gonna tell me. All right. If you interrupt me, I'm gonna check you on it.

Maze: You'll never check me, brother.

Raoul: I just did.

Maze: You've never checked me.

Raoul: I just did.

Maze: Go ahead. (Cross talk.)

Raoul: If you want to have that type of conversation, Maze, there's another place where we can have that type of conversation.

Maze: Are you committing assault as the attorney general? That's not a good idea.

Then there's retiring state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, one of the more capable members of the Illinois House who decided not to run for re-election.

Nekritz said she's giving an AG run "serious thought and making dozens and dozens of phone calls to try to gauge if this is the move I want to make."

It's hard to imagine party bosses backing Nekritz, a reform-minded liberal, for the nomination. It's impossible to imagine them backing Drury, who's made it clear that it's past time for Madigan, who is both state party chairman and House speaker, to go.

The public will know who meets insiders' expectations in a couple weeks when Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios convenes party ward heelers to consider whom to endorse in Lisa Madigan's absence.

Two other big names have been mentioned — Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx and former state Comptroller Dan Hynes. They've both said they're not interested, but others on the Democratic side surely are doing their due diligence.

That, in fact, is where most of the action is because Illinois is an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

On the GOP side, Urbana native and lawyer Erika Harold is the only announced candidate. If other Republicans are considering entering the primary against her, they're keeping quiet.

State Rep. Jim Durkin, the House Republican leader, was the subject of speculation about running. But Durkin on Tuesday endorsed Harold.Attorney General Madigan's late announcement didn't leave her fellow party members much time to get their ducks in order to make a race. But pent-up Democratic ambitions guarantee an interesting scramble of candidates hoping to succeed her.

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