CHICAGO – Attorney General Lisa Madigan ended months of speculation over her political future with the surprise announcement Monday that she won’t challenge Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014, saying she would never run for governor while her father is speaker of the House.
Madigan, who raised millions of dollars but remained coy about her plans, said she had contemplated a run out of frustration about the state’s lack of progress on key issues. But she said it wasn’t feasible while her father – arguably the most powerful politician in the state – remained speaker, a position he’s held for 28 of his 42 years in the House.
“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,” she said in the statement. “With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for Governor.”
For months, Lisa Madigan had given no hint about her plans. She even brushed off reporters inquiring about her future at an unrelated event earlier Monday. Hours later, she announced in an emailed statement that she will seek re-election and that she enjoys her current job.
Her exit leaves Quinn with a likely Democratic primary challenge from former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, the brother and son of two longtime Chicago mayors who’s formed an exploratory committee.
Political experts offered mixed views on how Madigan’s decision will affect Quinn’s chances for re-election.
“It’s a big help to Quinn,” said political analyst Don Rose. “He’ll be a leg up downstate ... and the Daley name may not be very popular downstate.”
But others said it will hurt Quinn. The governor’s recent handling of the state’s new law allowing the concealed carry of weapons – with a focus almost solely on Chicago violence – fueled talk of downstate Democrats floating their own candidate. And while any candidate outside Chicago faces immense fundraising challenges, Daley could now benefit from the sentiment against Quinn.
“In a three-way race, Daley and Madigan would be splitting the anti-Quinn vote,” said Kent Redfield, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Madigan has become one of the state’s more popular officeholders in her three terms as attorney general, and easily won her last two elections. In the past year she raised her profile on a national stage, working with federal officials on consumer advocacy issues including mortgage practices.
Her ballooning campaign fund had stirred talk about her intentions – she raised $830,000 in the first three months of 2013 and has $4.3 million on hand, almost three times more than what Quinn reported April 1.
At the same time, questions also were raised about whether her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, would step down if his daughter ran for governor.
Some political experts said he would have to step aside if she ran, even if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, while others said it shouldn’t be a problem since Lisa Madigan already holds a statewide office while her father is House speaker. Madigan became the state’s first woman attorney general in 2002 when she won her first election, after serving four years in the Illinois Senate.
She had said that she wanted to run for governor because the state needs better leadership.
“I considered running for governor because of the need for effective management from that office and the frustration so many of us feel about the current lack of progress on critical issues facing Illinois,” she said.
Another factor in Madigan’s decision might have been the recent spotlight on her father and allegations of political influence over hiring at the Metra commuter rail service, according to political watchers. In a memo Metra released last week, a former executive alleged that Michael Madigan sought a pay raise for a Metra employee who made contributions benefiting the speaker and sought a job for another person.
Rose said the issue could have been a distraction for Lisa Madigan as she started a campaign.
Quinn’s campaign didn’t immediately have a comment Monday as the governor made stops around the state to talk about jobs. While he hasn’t spoken in detail about his plans for next year, he has said his focus is on doing his job but that he is ready for any challenger.
In a statement, Daley spokesman Pete Giangreco said Madigan’s decision leaves voters with a “clear choice between a proven leader who gets things done and a governor who can’t seem to get anything done.”
Madigan’s announcement came the same day a fourth Republican candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, made his bid official. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner and state Sen. Bill Brady have already announced that they’re seeking the GOP nomination in March next year.