Matt Murphy


There is a lot of news in Illinois politics today — most notably, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to run for re-election to her current post rather than for governor or U.S. senator.

Madigan has done a good job as the state’s attorney general, and she deserves a shot at the governor’s mansion or a U.S. Senate seat someday. But for now, I’m glad she’s staying put. I think Pat Quinn, who became governor Jan. 29 after Rod Blagojevich was removed from office, deserves a chance to run for re-election without having to worry about Madigan, a fellow Democrat, stabbing him in the back.

Also consider that Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is leading the battle against Quinn’s income tax hike and state budget proposals. Michael Madigan annually fought tooth-and-nail with Blagojevich when it was time to set a state budget. Part of the problem then was Blagojevich, but part of it also was perceived to be Madigan setting the governor up for a fall so his daughter could swoop in and save the state as the next governor. Now that Blagojevich is out of the way, Michael Madigan appears to be doing the same thing to Quinn. Lisa Madigan deserves better circumstances under which to run for governor — not at a moment in time when it looks like she might get the job just because Daddy Dearest pulled the right strings for her.

As for the U.S. Senate, I think Lisa Madigan is showing her political savvy by not entering what is expected to be a crowded field to replace Roland Burris. With so many candidates (including U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, who jumped into the fray today), that race will be an expensive one to run start to finish. For that matter, so will the gubernatorial race. (Five Republicans already have announced their intentions to run against Quinn — state Sen. Bill Brady, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, state Sen. Matt Murphy, DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and political commentator Dan Proft.)

Lisa Madigan turns 43 later this month, so she has youth on her side. God willing, she has plenty of time left to run for higher office. In the meantime, she can continue to serve Illinois in the capacity she has since her 2002 election as attorney general. She is one of the few elected officials we can hold our heads up high about in Illinois. If she keeps giving us good reason to hold her in high esteem, her star will keep rising. Her time for higher office will come.

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If Democrats lose control of the Illinois governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate seat currently kept warm by Roland Burris, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Last week Gov. Pat Quinn said Burris should resign within two weeks or lawmakers should approve a special election for the seat vacated by President Obama. But on Monday, Quinn reversed his opinion on the matter — for the second time — after meeting with a group of black elected leaders, who pressured the governor to leave Burris alone.

Taking its cue from the governor’s backpedaling, a Democratic-controlled subcommittee of state senators voted 3-2 Thursday against allowing a special election. The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy, appears dead.

Various Democrats gave excuses why they don’t support a special election. The only reason that makes sense to me is the high cost of such an election, estimated at $62 million at a time when the state can hardly afford to take on such an expense. Yet a special election would finally put to rest the controversy that will continue to dog Burris until he leaves office.

State Sen. Rickey Hendon, a black Democratic legislator from Chicago’s West Side, gave what I consider the worst reason for not supporting a special election: “Why target the only black U.S. senator in the country?”

Burris’s race is not why the senator is being urged to resign. It is the fact that he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by a corrupt governor who has since been impeached and removed from office.

Hendon was the state senator who complained Rod Blagojevich didn’t get a fair trial in the Illinois Senate, so his support of Burris for the weakest of reasons doesn’t surprise me.

For those who say Burris shouldn’t be removed from office solely because of his race, I wish to remind them that while there have been only a few black U.S. senators, Illinois voters elected most of them. Why do they think Illinois voters wouldn’t elect another black U.S. senator? U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., is a strong candidate for the position. Nevertheless, it is our U.S. senator to choose and most voters are going to select that person based on qualifications and issue stances, not race.

Instead, we are stuck with Burris without an opportunity to decide whether we want him to keep serving as our junior U.S. senator, all because top Democrats are too timid to stand up to a vocal group of black leaders who strongarmed them into killing the special election legislation. In this case, the desires of the few outweigh the rights of the many. I hope voters remember that come election time.