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Only one Madigan should be in a leadership post

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 8:09 a.m. CDT

The 2014 governor’s race is a long way off. Still, the election is dominating a lot of the discussion in and around Springfield. Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State speech basically kicked off his campaign.

This week, a poll conducted by the Paul Simon Institute at Carbondale’s Southern Illinois University, and a move by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, added to the speculation. The poll showed Attorney General Lisa Madigan leading Quinn by nine points in a Democratic primary. Simon, daughter of the deceased senator, announced that she would not join Quinn on the 2014 ticket. It’s speculated that Simon will seek another statewide post — possibly attorney general, if Lisa Madigan decides to run; or Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s post, because it’s widely believed Rutherford may run for governor on the Republican ticket.

By the way, the Simon Institute also did a poll on a Republican primary, which showed no clear favorite in a crowded field expected also to include state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.

All of this wouldn’t warrant much discussion except for one scenario that may play out.

If his daughter decides to run for governor, House Speaker Michael Madigan should step down from that post.

At this point, that’s a significant “if,” but it’s important to set that expectation now. Speaker Madigan is probably the most powerful man in the state. He would not necessarily have to resign his House seat; after all, voters in his district elected him to that office.

But it would seem important that he resign the Speaker’s office immediately upon his daughter’s announcement. He should not wait until the outcome of the primary, or to see how the governor’s race unfolds. Let’s not kid ourselves: Michael Madigan still would wield considerable power even as a “rank and file” member. But a resignation would be the right thing to do. It would show Madigan is taking a back seat – symbolically, at least – while his daughter seeks higher office.

Plus, Quinn and Speaker Madigan will have to work together while the governor’s race is unfolding. The two men seemingly don’t get along, but imagine how much more uncomfortable those meetings would be if Lisa Madigan becomes a candidate for Quinn’s job?

The attorney general has proven to be a capable and independent public servant and has served the state well as attorney general. Her father is also independent and the two have publicly disagreed on issues in the past. If Lisa Madigan decides to seek higher office, she would be a capable candidate and — according to early surveys — a popular one.

What would not be good is to have one Madigan running for governor and another as Speaker of the House. The Madigans should avoid that issue if the attorney general decides to run for governor.

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©2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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