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Carol Marin: More than one kind of Madigan

Updated: August 22, 2013 6:27AM

What father wouldn’t
willingly step aside to clear a path for the daughter he loves?

That’s a question that continues to burn inside political circles about the decision by Attorney General Lisa Madigan not to run for governor as long as her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, continues to keep his death grip on power in Illinois.

She didn’t put it that way. But in a terse announcement, she came pretty darn close.

“I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case,” Lisa Madigan said in her statement. “With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor.”

If that first sentence was ever remotely true — that she never planned to run if her dad stuck around — the attorney general never bothered to tell voters, contributors or reporters that until just this week when she formally took her name off the list of contenders. In point of fact, until this week, Ms. Madigan has claimed there was no problem with her dad remaining at the helm.

And the second part of her statement? About “Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office”?

I know it’s hard, but forget about the ballooning Metra scandal for the moment. The one in which Speaker Madigan plays a villainous starring role.

Long before that train wreck, the speaker had never seemed: A) enthused about his daughter running; or B) open to getting out of her (and our) way.

Nobody knows what goes on in his sphinx-like brain. Not even people who appear reasonably close to him. But anybody with a rudimentary ability to read polling data has known in recent years that the father, according to the numbers, has been a liability to the daughter’s potential quest for higher office.

Nobody reads polling data better than Mike Madigan. Or the political tea leaves.

So he certainly didn’t miss the fact that for the first six months of this year his daughter was meeting all of the formidable benchmarks of an imminent candidacy. She aggressively amassed a $5 million war chest. She had Emily’s List, the feminist funding powerhouse, on speed dial to do battle for her. And she had the popularity — the poll numbers — her dad hasn’t had in decades.

Mike Madigan, it’s been argued, cares deeply about only two things. His family. And his power.

As we’ve seen in the last few months, it is the misuse of that power that’s perverted just about everything including:

◆ A legislative session that produced neither pension reform nor same-sex marriage.

◆ A Metra debacle that once again proved that in Illinois, patronage always matters more than taxpayers or fiscal fairness.

◆ And a daughter’s opportunity, assuming she really could do it, to show that in government there can be more than one kind of Madigan.

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