Daley looking strong in 14′ race for governor

by Russ Stewert

This week, instead of the usual lengthy “Analysis and Opinion,” how about something completely different? “Gossip and Speculation.” In bite-sized capsules, here’s what the famous, infamous and ridiculous are doing as the 2014 political season gets under way.

Governor: I’m not a spoiler — that’s my brother. The developing Democratic primary will not be a replication of the 1983 Chicago mayoral contest, in which Rich Daley was deemed the spoiler, ensuring Jane Byrne’s defeat and Harold Washington’s victory by dividing the white vote.

The field will consist of incumbent Pat Quinn, also known as “Governor Jell-o,” state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has a “Daddy Problem,” and former U.S. commerce secretary and mayoral brother Bill Daley.

The early outlook: Daley should not be underestimated, Madigan should not be overestimated, and Quinn should start angling for a cushy job in the Obama Administration. The contest is all about positioning and defining. Daley is busily crafting an image as the grown-up — the competent, mature, nonpolitical “Mr. Fix It” who can return Illinois to the “Land of Lincoln,” not the “Land of Dysfunction.” The voters’ general impression of Springfield is of a kindergarten filled with spoiled, unaccountable political brats who will not cure Illinois’ problems.

Quinn’s problem resembles the old legal trick bag: “When did you stop beating your wife?” For him, it is, “When did you start being a competent governor?” Give us a day, time and place. Show some leadership. Give us a pension plan. Don’t just call the Illinois House, which is under Speaker Mike Madigan’s thumb, and the Illinois Senate, which is under President John Cullerton’s fist, back into session and expect them to bail you out.

Lisa Madigan’s problem is her father. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Mike Madigan, who also is the state Democratic Party chairman, raises almost $5 million every election cycle from special interests to retain his 71-47 majority, funds and “owns” every Democratic member, and does what he pleases. He is a despot. So, for Lisa Madigan, the question is, “When do you start saying ‘no’ to Speaker Madigan?”

To win, Madigan needs bold proposals, a “change” agenda, a break with her father, and a focus on such feel-good issues as having a woman as governor. The longer she waits to differentiate herself, the worse it gets.

For Madigan, the 2014 campaign was supposed to be a coronation, not a castigation. Yet, like Quinn, she is already on the defensive. She expected a referendum, a simple Quinn-Madigan race in which voters would reject the governor and embrace her as the alternative. Now it’s a three-way choice, and she must spend her $4 million-plus war chest to persuade voters to back her, not just to oust Quinn.

Illinois is broke. Unfunded state pension debt exceeds $96 billion. The Democrats control everything, and nothing gets done. The public sector unions control Cullerton, and pension reform does not get done. Therefore, Daley will aver, elect a real governor, not a patsy or a puppet. That message will gain traction. In one-party Illinois, Daley is the “Reagan Republican” in the race — the outsider, the independent, who will cut the budget, defy Madigan and Cullerton, and not obsess on his re-election.

Can Daley win? Democratic gubernatorial primary turnout averages 1,003,000. It was 802,901 in 1990, when Neil Hartigan was unopposed, 1,099,025 in 1994, when Dawn Clark Netsch beat Roland Burris, Dick Phelan and others with 44.4 percent of the vote, 950,307 in 1998, when obscure conservative Downstate congressman Glenn Poshard beat Burris, John Schmidt, Jim Burns and others with 37.6 percent of the vote, 1,252,516 in 2002, when Rod Blagojevich, beat Burris and Paul Vallas with 36.5 percent of the vote, and 915,726 in 2010, when Quinn beat Dan Hynes by 8,372 votes, with 50.5 percent of the vote.

So which is the template for 2014? There is no African-American candidate, so Quinn presumably will get the bulk of the black vote, which is 30 to 35 percent of the primary total. There is no Downstater, but the speaker controls a network of Downstate representatives who will push Madigan. Although Daley clearly is identified with Chicago, he is the most fiscally conservative, and he will get plenty of Downstate votes. So the choice is among three Chicagoans, with almost 650,000 of the one million turnout emanating from Cook County.

The 2002 election is the template: Three Chicagoans, with 747,410 votes (59.6 percent of the total) cast in Cook County, 156,079 in the Collar Counties and 349,027 Downstate. Blagojevich got 28.5 percent in Cook County and 32.8 percent in the Collar Counties, but he won Downstate with 192,894 votes (55.2 percent), thanks to the wheeling and dealing of his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell. Blagojevich won by 25,469 votes.

My prediction: Downstate is the key. Quinn the budget bloater will get at least 50 to 60 percent of the minority vote. Madigan will run like gangbusters on the North Shore and the Lakefront, where it will be politically incorrect to vote against her, unless she’s isolated by her “Daddy Problem.” To win, Daley must demonize the Madigans and get 55 percent of the Downstate and Collar County vote and at least 30 percent in Cook County. There is a path to a Daley victory, which can be couched in the slogan “I don’t like Mike.”

Lieutenant Governor: Bye-bye Scotty Boy. There won’t be any Bruce Lee Cohen to upset the Democrats’ apple cart in 2014. It will be recalled that Cohen, a multi-millionaire pawnbroker, self-funded his 2010 campaign, spending close to $2.5 million and getting 26 percent of the vote (213,475 votes) in a six-candidate field.

After his upset win, it was revealed that Cohen had lots of previously undisclosed personal issues, which rendered him unelectable. Since he was bracketed on the ballot with Quinn, that also would have doomed him. Madigan, as the Democratic Party chairman, bludgeoned Cohen into quitting and replaced him with Sheila Simon.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Madigan and Cullerton fixed that political problem. Beginning in 2014, aspirants for governor and lieutenant governor must run as a team, as they do in the general election. Hence, no future Scotty surprises.

The first to bail was Simon, angling for Madigan’s job. She was not going to run with Quinn, and a Madigan ticket will be balanced by a man, most likely an African American. Running for lieutenant governor now means attaching a Gordian noose to one’s neck and a ball and chain to one’s ankle. One’s along for the ride. As if Illinois’ lieutenant governors weren’t a dull and dreary bunch, they will become more so, just an inconsequential appendage slapped on the ticket to provide gender, racial or geographic balance and to lose no votes.

If Madigan and Cullerton could cure the Cohen problem with such alacrity, why not something more critical — like the pension mess?

Attorney General: The general perception among Illinoisans is that the job is a peak of prosecutorial power, and among politicians that it is a steppingstone to higher office. Not true. None of Illinois’ 41 attorneys general since 1810 has become the governor or a U.S. senator. Ninian Edwards was elected attorney general in 1834, and that was after he served as territorial governor from 1826 to 1830.

The recent past is littered with failed attorneys general: Bill Clark (1961 to 1968) and Bill Scott (1969 to 1980) lost bids for U.S. senator in 1968 and 1980. Hartigan (1983 to 1990), Burris (1991 to 1994) and Jim Ryan (1995 to 2002) lost bids for governor in 1990, 1994 and 2002. Now comes Madigan, who won the 2002 primary with 58.2 percent of the vote and elections in 2002 (with 50.4 percent), 2006 (with 72.5 percent) and 2010 (with 64.7 percent). She has compiled an ethical and effective record. She should be unstoppable, but if she runs for governor in 2014, it will be about what she will do, not what she has done . . . and about what “Big Daddy” has done and will do.

Three Democrats are seeking Madigan’s job: Simon, of Carbondale, who, unlike Madigan, benefits from late father Paul’s name and reputation, state Senator Kwame Raoul, of Hyde Park, who took Barack Obama’s seat in 2005, and former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman, who got 33.7 percent of the vote in the 2010 Senate primary The race starts out even.

Among the Republicans, state Representatives Tom Cross and Jim Durkin are mentioned. Against Raoul or Hoffman, a Republican could win. In 2002 Republican Joe Birkett lost to Madigan by just 114,946 votes.

Sheriff: The “Polish Palka.” That’s a candidate, not a dance. Since 1990, Chicago’s Far Southwest Side 19th Ward has had an iron grip on the Cook County sheriff’s post, which controls 4,400 jobs. Incumbent Tom Dart, who was elected in 2006, was preceded by Mike Sheahan of the 19th Ward. Rumors abounded that Dart would seek Madigan’s job as a prelude to a bid for Chicago mayor (in 2015), U.S. senator (in 2016) or governor (in 2018).

That’s not going to happen. Another Beverly-Mount Greenwood-Morgan Park 19th Warder, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Kathy Meany, is retiring, and 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea cannot yet win a primary, especially against a single black candidate and several white candidates, so the word came down from the ward’s bosses, the Hynes, Joyce and Degnan clans: Stay put. Dart will face primary opposition from Ted Palka, a former sheriff’s police investigator, but he will win easily.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com


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