Now that Illinois favorite son President Barack Obama has been re-elected and inaugurated, the Illinois Statehouse is focusing on the next big election – the gubernatorial sweepstakes. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, by “not saying she would not run” against Governor Pat Quinn in the March 18, 2014 primary, flash-started the campaign this week. In other words, Pat Quinn, Bill Daley, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and others – game on!
Although Quinn and Dillard are the only ones on record running for the office, all of the previously mentioned pols have hinted at or have had their people throwing their names out as potential candidates. Here are some of the subplots:
In 2009, Illinois political insiders waited to see if Lisa Madigan would seek either impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich’s office or President-elect Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. Her decision and fear of her as an opponent dictated who would run for both offices from both parties. But in a surprise move, she stunned everyone by deciding to seek a third term as Attorney General. This time may be different.
Bill Daly has toyed with running for office on numerous occasions and has also “not said that he is not” running for governor. His resume is immense, having served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, White House Chief of Staff, President of SBC Communications and Midwest Chairman of JPMorgan Chase. But, both he and Attorney General Madigan have a similar problem.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s father is Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. He symbolizes Chicago power to a lot of downstate and collar county voters. Bill Daley’s father and brother were both named Richard Daley and served long, nearly epic terms as mayor of Chicago. They too symbolize Chicago power to downstate and collar county voters. That could hurt them in the Primary Election against Quinn and if one of them wins, it would surely be an issue in the General Election.
They used to both have another problem that now only Madigan has - the fear of too much power in one family. But, Bill Daley’s brother is no longer mayor. The AG’s issue is would she need her father to promise to retire to become governor?
THE OTHER PARTY
The Illinois GOP has been out of the Governor’s Office since 2003, but at least three Republicans could change that. State Senator Kirk Dillard, who only lost in the last gubernatorial Primary Election by 193 votes, is in the race. But will the person who beat Dillard, State Senator Bill Brady, also run again? Brady only lost to Pat Quinn in that subsequent General Election by 31,834 votes out of more than 3.7 million cast. The other person expected to try to get the GOP nod is one of the three Republican office holders who have won a state-wide election, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a moderate and from downstate Pontiac.
Unless someone else pops up like Congressman Aaron Shock or State Senator Matt Murphy the race would come down to Brady, Dillard and Rutherford. But, based on recent trends, can a Republican beat a Democrat in an Illinois gubernatorial race?
DOWNSTATE DYNAMCIS & RECENT TRENDS
Bill Brady gave Governor Quinn a scare by nearly running the table outside of Cook County. The only other counties Quinn won were Jackson, Alexander, Randolph and Union. Rod Blagojevich also proved that a strong showing in the overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning City of Chicago and Cook County and picking up a couple of counties like St. Clair or Madison County is a pretty reliable formula to move into the governor’s mansion. So, per the numbers of that election, it seems that whoever wins the Democratic Primary Election should win the General Election.
But could 2014 be different? Governor Quinn has a huge problem with labor. Madigan and Daley have legacy issues. There is also a possibility that the race between those three could be so ugly that the winner of the Primary Election may have trouble getting the support of the losers. Another factor may be that by then, after more than a decade of Democratic Party rule in the Illinois Statehouse, the voters may want to return to a moderate Republican in the Jim Thompson/Jim Edgar mold. Thompson has been a historic strong supporter of Rutherford and Dillard served as Edgar’s Chief of Staff. Could one of them cut into the suburban Cook County vote enough and put up downstate numbers like Bill Brady did to win?
The pre-announcement feinting will be interesting for those that actually enter the 2014 race for governor. If most of them do enter the fray, it would be a contest for the ages – even by Illinois standards.