Illinois Governor’s Race Now in Flux

In a surprising announcement, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), who was thought to be the strongest potential primary challenger to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, said yesterday that she will not run for the state’s top job. Previously, and on repeated occasions, Madigan said she was planning to enter the campaign.

This is the second time she has backed away from an intra-party gubernatorial challenge. In 2010, the attorney general also decided against challenging the governor in what would have been an expensive and divisive primary battle. In the previous campaign, Quinn had yet to be elected by voters. As lieutenant governor, he ascended to the chief executive position when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was forced to resign upon his indictment and arrest but before being sent to prison for a series of associated crimes.

But there was an overriding reason that influenced her final decision. The attorney general’s father, Mike Madigan, is the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and is commonly thought of as one of the most powerful political leaders in the state. Particularly with the legislature taking hits over the state pension debacle among other things, she clearly felt that a father-daughter combination in two of the three highest state legislative offices would not sit well with people.

“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 Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor,” Madigan said in her written announcement statement.

This drastically changes the governor’s race. Though Gov. Quinn won’t have to face the attorney general in the Democratic primary, he still must deal with former US Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, also the ex-chief of staff to President Obama. He is the son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the brother of recently retired Richard M. Daley, the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history. Daley officially announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee in June.

How the development affects the primary immediately is unclear. Usually, an incumbent with poor favorability ratings, like Quinn, has a more difficult time with only one opponent, especially in a state like Illinois that employs no nomination run-off system. Such would normally favor a Daley challenge. Not having Lisa Madigan in the field will definitely be a benefit to Quinn, however, so the ultimate effect is unclear. Early polling in a two-way contest between Quinn and Daley showed a virtual tie.

The Madigan decision is welcome news for Republicans. Their best chance for victory comes with a wounded Quinn limping through the nomination phase of the campaign to barely win his primary. Now, this scenario is more likely.

Madigan’s decision not to run throws this race into flux and potentially makes the general election a toss-up campaign.

Special Election in MA-5

Though Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) won the Massachusetts special Senate election on June 25, he will finally be sworn into office today. The state has a long election certification process, and even though Markey’s victory was not in doubt, he had to wait for official state notification to move to the Senate.

That being accomplished, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has scheduled the special election to replace Markey, now that his US House seat is officially vacant. The primary election is set for Oct. 15, with a special general to follow on Dec. 10.

Long before the Senate race had been decided, congressional candidates were coming forward in anticipation of the impending vacancy. The Democrats are heavy favorites to retain the Boston suburban seat.

Already running are three Democratic state senators, Will Brownsberger, Katherine Clark, and Majority Whip Karen Spilka. State Rep. Carl Sciortino was actually the first person to declare for the seat, long before the Senate primaries had even been decided. Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian is also in the race. Attorney Frank Addivinola is the lone announced Republican candidate.

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