CHICAGO – Illinois politicians who’d rested their 2014 campaign decisions on Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s plans began taking stock Tuesday, a day after the Chicago Democrat revealed she will stay out of the governor’s race and seek re-election instead.
Madigan sent waves through political circles with her surprise announcement to seek a fourth term, shaping up a Democratic primary matchup between Gov. Pat Quinn and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, and leaving the plans of at least three other prominent leaders – Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, state Sen. Kwame Raoul and Republican House Leader Tom Cross – in question.
Quinn said Tuesday his approach to next year simply will be to do his job, his first public comments since Madigan’s exit.
But he also used the chance to hint at his likely campaign themes by portraying himself as a man of the people and spelling out the differences between himself and Daley, who has formed an exploratory committee.
“I’m not going to be a champion of millionaires, everybody knows that. I fight hard for folks who don’t have lobbyists, who don’t have political action committees, who aren’t in high places,” he told reporters before making a little quip. “I’m quite a bit different from Bill Daley. He has a better tailor than I do.”
Quinn, who addressed reporters after an unrelated event, sidestepped questions about Madigan’s campaign decision.
For months Madigan has been raising big money but stayed vague about her plans, leaving political watchers and officeholders to believe she was gearing up to challenge Quinn. But her surprise announcement – made in an email blast – was largely shaped by her father’s position as Illinois House speaker. She said that Illinois wouldn’t be served well by having a governor and speaker from the same family. She declined interviews Tuesday.
Had Madigan decided to take up a gubernatorial bid, the race for attorney general would have been left wide open. Challenges are now unlikely as Madigan has become one of the state’s most popular officeholders, easily winning her past two elections.
Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, said he had wanted the spot and had ramped up fundraising. He ended the second quarter with more money than Simon and Cross, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday. He had $462,736 cash on hand, with the bulk of the money raised in the last quarter.
But he said Madigan’s announcement took him by surprise.
Raoul said he will consider another statewide office or seek re-election. He also dangled the possibility of running for governor.
Raoul, a lawyer, has raised his profile in recent years. He was one of two lawmakers put in charge of Illinois’ once-a-decade redistricting process in 2011, was key in talks leading to the state’s new law allowing the concealed carry of weapons and now heads a bipartisan pension panel charged with addressing the nearly $100 billion problem.
“It’s premature and not timely to be talking about what to run for,” Raoul said. “I’ve got the biggest problem in the state at my feet right now.”
For five months, Simon has kept mum on her plans for next year, saying she will seek another statewide office. She wouldn’t reveal what position she might seek but touted her background as a former county prosecutor and law professor. With Madigan staying put, Simon is now looking elsewhere with a focus on Illinois comptroller, said campaign manager Dave Mellet.
“Her goal all along has been to find an opportunity to advocate for all of Illinois,” he said. “She’s still looking very closely at what opportunities are out there.”
Mellet said her announcement will come soon. Simon, who raised less than $200,000 and had roughly $270,000 cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, was out of town Tuesday at the National Lieutenant Governors Association in Oklahoma City and unavailable for comment.
Madigan’s decision also is likely to influence House Republican Leader Tom Cross, who also had wanted to seek the office of attorney general. Recent finance reports showed he raised more than $322,000 in the last quarter with more than $350,000 cash on hand. He did not return messages seeking comment.
Quinn has been reticent about his exact plans for next year, saying only that he’s ready for any challenge. Still, he led all other gubernatorial candidates – including four Republicans – in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. The Chicago Democrat raised slightly more than $1 million from April 1 to June 30 and has $2.3 million in available funds.
“I work hard every day on this job,” he said Tuesday. “I think that’s the best way to focus on any election, is to do your job.”
Daley’s campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco said Madigan’s decision would give Illinois voters a clear choice between “a proven leader who gets things done and a governor who can’t seem to get anything done.” The brother and son of two Chicago mayors formed an exploratory committee last month and been trying to build support with downstate voters. He’s already taken two trips through central and southern Illinois. Former White House Chief of Staff Bill has raised nearly $800,000 so far, according to campaign finance data.
The Republican field of candidates widened this week as state Sen. Kirk Dillard announced his bid and continued a two-day tour of the state on Tuesday. Also in the running are Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Bill Brady.