By Bethany Jaeger
Political hopefuls and Statehouse insiders waited for the day when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan would decide whether she would run for governor or for the state’s second U.S. Senate seat in 2010. Today she surprised most of them by saying, “Neither.”
Citing her family and her feeling that there is still “plenty to do” in her current position, she said she decided to seek a third term as attorney general, setting off a chain reaction of political decisions leading up to the election season.
“I know that for now, the best way for me to continue serving the people of Illinois is to continue doing the job that I love,” Madigan said in her announcement. She cited her work targeting predatory lending practices, lifetime supervision of sex offenders, utility rates, hospital bills for uninsured patients and public access to information.
Her decision to seek another term ripples throughout state and national politics, particularly because it comes shortly after a trip to Washington, D.C. She met with President Barack Obama and reportedly discussed a potential bid for his former U.S. Senate seat. Madigan was seen as a strong candidate to ensure that it remained in Democratic hands, given that U.S. Sen. Roland Burris’ abbreviated term has been clouded by his controversial appointment by embattled former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
As an incumbent candidate for statewide office, Madigan faces a repeat opponent, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett. He lost to Madigan in 2002. He ran for governor in 2006 but soon became Judy Baar Topinka’s running mate as lieutenant governor on the GOP ticket. They lost to Blagojevich and then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. On his campaign Web site, Birkett said, “I want to remain a prosecutor.” He said he would bring to the forefront ideas to partner with state’s attorneys in every county, work with the General Assembly to reform laws, root out public corruption and protect communities against gang violence.
His fundraising, as reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections, however, has been outpaced by Madigan. She most recently reported having nearly $3.5 million available at the end of 2008, compared with Birkett’s $44,676 for the same period.
State Rep. Julie Hamos, an Evanston Democrat, was considering a bid for attorney general. Her campaign released a statement today saying she would revisit with community leaders and supporters. “I look forward to hearing their ideas and input as I discuss my next steps with my family."
Now that Madigan is out of the race for the Hill, chips are starting to fall for likely Democratic and Republican candidates to challenge Burris, if he indeed runs. Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk has not officially announced but has reportedly reached out to supporters today. Statehouse insiders also have mentioned Kirk as a possible GOP candidate for governor.
On the Democratic side, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias of Chicago has formed an exploratory committee for the Senate. CORRECTION: Raja Krishnamoorthi, former deputy treasurer, is exploring a run for state comptroller, not treasurer. If Giannoulias vacates his position as treasurer, his chief of staff, Robin Kelly, wants it. Another Democrat exploring the U.S. Senate race is Chris Kennedy, who heads Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and is the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky decided June 8 against a Senate bid and instead will run for reelection in her House seat.
Madigan’s decision to seek reelection also causes a ripple effect at the state level. Not seeking the governor’s office avoids the politically awkward situation of serving while her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, controlled one of the legislative chambers. It also avoids a primary run against sitting Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Considering she was also widely seen as one of the strongest candidates for the chief executive’s job, several potential opponents waited for her decision. Comptroller Dan Hynes is considering; however, he has not officially announced which office he might seek. His campaign issued a statement that said he would discuss his options with his family and “make a decision within the next few weeks.” Krishnamoorthi is considering a bid for comptroller if Hynes decides to move on. My apologies for an error published in the original post.
The GOP primary race for governor, meanwhile, is increasingly crowded, particularly with suburban Chicagoans. State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who served in the administrations of former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson, officially announced his bid with a statewide tour today. “I’ve always said I didn’t care whether Lisa Madigan was my opponent. I intended to run otherwise. But, obviously, she and her father would have been very difficult opponents.”
He was quoted this morning as saying he looks forward to Lisa Madigan being attorney general when he’s governor. Dillard said this afternoon, however, that he was not endorsing her. “Joe Birkett and [GOP Rep.] Jim Durkin are close friends and would be great attorney generals. And it would be worth the price of admission to see a rematch between Joe Birkett and Ms. Madigan, especially since State’s Attorney Birkett came so close last time to beating her.”
In the race for governor, Dillard joins GOP candidates Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, a repeat gubernatorial hopeful; Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine, who announced last month and has become his chamber’s budget point person; DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom; Dan Proft, political commentator for WLS-AM 890 Chicago radio, a political consultant and a writer for conservative publications; and Adam Andrzejewski, a self-made businessman and self-funded candidate based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook.
We’ll have more about the suburban Chicago hotspot for political aspirations in the future.