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Brown: Lisa Madigan’s exit opens the door for ... who?

Updated: August 19, 2013 2:11PM

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to stay out of the governor’s race creates a definite opening for another Democrat to jump into the contest.

Though formidable enough, neither Gov. Pat Quinn nor former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is unbeatable in a primary.

Finding a candidate who wants to challenge them may be another matter.

It’s definitely late to be launching a campaign, but it’s not too late for the right candidate — someone who would start with good name recognition, have the resources to make up for it or best of all, have a built-in constituency that would give them a plausible path to victory.

Former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010, is one possibility.

Hoffman just announced last week that he would not be a candidate for attorney general, attributing his decision to wanting to spend more time with his young children.

It would be difficult to backtrack on that reasoning so soon, but Madigan’s decision to seek re-election has changed the political landscape enough that all contenders are going to be reconsidering their options.

I left a phone message Tuesday asking Hoffman if he was interested in running. He deflected with a tongue-in-cheek email asking if I wanted to be his campaign manager. I responded by warning that I was going to put his name in the mix unless he shut me down. Never heard back after that.

What Hoffman brings to the table is the fresh face profile of someone not easily dismissed as more of the same.

As inspector general, he developed a reputation for independence while tangling with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration. I was never too keen on him using the IG’s post as a direct springboard into politics, but that’s been four years ago now.

Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) might be another option. Raoul, an emerging leader in the Legislature, had been laying the groundwork for an attorney general campaign if Madigan sought a promotion to governor. Conceivably, he could pivot and redirect that effort into the governor’s race.

Raoul is playing a key role in the pension conference committee created at Quinn’s suggestion to resolve the impasse between the House and Senate over what shape pension reform should take.

Raoul also had a major hand in fashioning the state’s concealed carry gun legislation, which didn’t turn out the way he’d like but certainly showcased his ability to reach across the political aisle.

If Raoul could forge a coalition of African-American voters and independents, he could have a chance — or he just might succeed in taking enough votes away from Quinn to throw the nomination to Daley.

Raoul did not sound overly interested in the governor’s race when I contacted him Tuesday, but he didn’t rule it out either.

“Obviously, I’m working on the biggest problem the state has right now, and I can’t speculate in terms of my future about anything until this is resolved,” he said. “All I can say is that the state is in need of leadership. In terms of me individually, that’s not my focus.”

For these types of speculative stories, it’s sometimes better not to even check first with the individual in question. Better to let their name bounce around for a few days and see what happens.

At least that’s my excuse for not calling Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who once toyed with the notion of running for governor before announcing last month that she would seek re-election.

Preckwinkle, who also has tried to stifle speculation that she might run for mayor in 2015, would totally change the dynamic of the governor’s race if she were interested.

The problem for her would be giving up a pretty sure thing in the County Board presidency, a job she seems to enjoy.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is another individual with unrealized statewide ambitions who might see an opportunity to triangulate Quinn and Daley, even though he’s already announced for re-election. I don’t see him taking the risk, but he belongs in the discussion.

Of all the trial balloons suggested to me Tuesday, perhaps the most intriguing was the name of former Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, who has been keeping a low profile since exiting politics after a loss to Quinn in 2010.

Maybe this could be his chance for a comeback. Nah, I’d hate to see him go through that again.

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