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Miller: Lisa’s decision on governor’s race leaves lots of questions

Updated: September 13, 2013 6:14AM



“Ask her,” Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter last week.

The journalist wanted to know why Madigan’s daughter, Lisa, the state attorney general, would consider running for governor knowing that he had no plans to step down as speaker.

So I tried to ask her. But I didn’t get very far.

Lisa Madigan, I was told, is still refusing to discuss in any way the conversations she had with her father leading to her decision not to run for governor.

As you’ll recall, Lisa had this to say when she decided to run for re-election instead of the state’s highest office: “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.”

But last week, Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) said he had told his daughter on “several occasions” that he had no plans to step down.

“She knew very well that I did not plan to retire,” he said. “She knew what my position was. She knew.”

People close to the Madigans say the polling and focus groups always showed that the issue of her father would be a problem for Lisa’s candidacy, but that it wasn’t an actual “deciding” issue for voters.

Yes, they didn’t like the idea of a governor and a House speaker from the same family, but they didn’t appear to be saying they would make their choice for governor based on that one thing. She would’ve won, the insiders say, regardless of what her father decided to do. The speculation by some reporters about how the unfolding Metra patronage scandal played a role in her decision not to run appear to be false.

Her decision was made several days before the Chicago media freaked out over the revelation that her father was involved with a minor and aborted patronage hiring at Metra.

As if all the political hacks sitting on those mass transit agency boards somehow wasn’t a tip-off that maybe politics has always been a part of their operations.

Anyway, Speaker Madigan got whacked in the media for trying to influence Metra personnel decisions. Lisa Madigan announced her decision not to run for governor after her dad had been zinged for three solid days.

The timing of her decision is still quite curious. Why throw him under the bus on a Monday after three solid days of hugely negative press about Metra? Was she angry at his refusal to step down, or did she just not think things through? Who came up with that bright idea?

Also, did she give no thought at all to how her statement could be thrown back in her face about her current job? If being governor would be a conflict of interest when her father was speaker, then why isn’t serving as attorney general a conflict as well?

If she’s really that unprepared for prime time, then maybe she made the right decision.

Those are just some of the questions I would’ve asked, had I been given a chance.

My main question, however, is whether Lisa Madigan really thought she could persuade her father to give up his powerful post. Was she that delusional? The guy ain’t going anywhere any time soon, and just about everybody knows it.

And if she didn’t expect her father to retire, then did she all but lie to a whole lot of people who contributed to her campaign fund this year with the full expectation that she would challenge Pat Quinn in a primary election?

It’s doubtful that many union leaders and prominent Democrats would’ve come up with much cash had they known about her “strong” belief that her father would have to no longer be speaker for her to seek the governor’s office. That’s because almost nobody would believe that she could pry the gavel out of his hands.

Ms. Madigan needs to stop hiding behind flimsy excuses and give the people of Illinois a full explanation. The public ought to know if their attorney general all but lied to them for months.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com



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