July 11, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Illinois has just two marquee political players. Only two whose names are writ large and whose poll numbers pop.
One of them lives in the White House and doesn't come home much anymore. The other just decided there's no place like home.
So, with President Barack Obama off on the global stage and Attorney General Lisa Madigan opting out of a run for higher office, who exactly are the contenders in the 2010 Democratic primary?
Pat Quinn, Illinois' accidental governor, may be Irish but that's all he's had in common with the entrenched, dynastic forces that move Illinois politics. A gadfly reformer, he has forever been on the outside looking in -- and still is.
Quinn's toxic relationships with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, coupled with the distance that Mayor Daley has maintained, all spell turbulent seas ahead as Quinn goes for a full term in 2010.
Enter, perhaps, Comptroller Dan Hynes. Wonky, smart, but chronically uncharismatic, Hynes is debating whether to jump in.
The Hynes clan, headed by elder politico Tom Hynes, has been on good terms with the Madigans, Cullertons and Daleys.
Do they unite against Quinn?
Don't count on that, and don't count Quinn out.
First of all, why would Mike Madigan aggressively further the future of a young man who might limit his daughter's options four years from now?
Second, Quinn has bungled his honeymoon with the Legislature and the media thus far, but he's not stupid. And he's not finished.
The Senate dilemma
Speaking of clans, the Chris Kennedy shoe has yet to drop.
Kennedy, of -- you know -- the Kennedys, has not yet announced if he will leave his perch atop the Merchandise Mart to run for Barack Obama's Senate seat, currently occupied by tenant Roland Burris.
The Daleys -- reportedly Bill -- are big on Kennedy making a run.
The Madigans -- Mike, really -- want to stop a run by Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who already has raised $1.6 million, plus his own personal fortune. Giannoulias has a score to settle with Mike Madigan who, as head of the Illinois Democratic Party, not only fielded a candidate against him in 2006 but never endorsed him in the general election. Meanwhile, Mike Madigan has a score to settle with Giannoulias for having had the audacity to win in spite of him.
Then there's Cheryle Jackson, head of the Chicago Urban League. As an African American and a woman, she could be a game-changer in a three-way race. But she also will carry Blagojevich baggage, having served as his press secretary in his first term.
Race will be an issue in the race.
Since 2004, it has been the lone U.S. Senate seat held by a black person.
Whom would Obama want? Jackson of the venerable Urban League? Giannoulias, his basketball buddy, for whom he campaigned in 2006? Or Kennedy, whose iconic uncle, Teddy, and cousin, Caroline, blessed his presidential bid? With the potential of North Shore congressman Mark Kirk jumping in on the Republican side, does Obama really stay out of this one?
So many reasons not to run
This is a lousy time to run for political office.
Wait, I take that back. The pensions are fabulous, the health insurance excellent and the lifting in government is seldom heavy. Then again, the economy sucks, problems are huge, fund-raising is hard and the electorate is irate.
Jobs at the top are no longer quite as alluring.
And so not only have Lisa Madigan and Roland Burris opted out. So have Forrest Claypool, Paul Vallas and Jim Houlihan, who won't run for Cook County Board president. It's also why other declarations of intent are so agonizingly slow in coming.
And hey, once we're done with 2010, there's the 2011 mayor's race.
Parking meters and the Olympics.
The waters are roiling already.