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Lisa Madigan refuses to tip hand on governor’s race

Attorney General LisMadigan. File Photo. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Attorney General Lisa Madigan. File Photo. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

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Updated: October 6, 2012 1:56PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As Republicans make her last name a dirty word, Attorney General Lisa Madigan played coy Tuesday about whether she might challenge a politically weakened Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2014 governor’s race.

“You know what? I am here at the Democratic convention focused on one race, and that’s the race for the White House,” Madigan told reporters Tuesday when asked if she intended to run for governor. “We have to make sure that Barack Obama is re-elected, and we move forward on the path to recovery.”

Pressed again on the question, she said, “You can ask me that after this election.”

Quinn’s re-election chances have been questioned since he alienated several key unions with his push for pension cutbacks, layoffs of government workers and state facility closures.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan went so far as to say Monday that the governor couldn’t win re-election without first repairing his relations with unions, including AFSCME Council 31.

That statement — coupled with recent, disappointing poll results showing low favorability ratings for Quinn in the suburbs and Downstate — puts other Democrats such as the attorney general potentially in play as 2014 primary challengers to Quinn.

Any vulnerabilities the governor might face are rooted in the bad economy that has kept Obama from being a slam-dunk for a second term, she said.

“Pat Quinn, like President Obama, has been in a situation when things are very difficult in our state and in our nation. And so you’re going to have difficulties. You’re going to have tough decisions, and you’re going to have disgruntled people. I think that’s what you see at the state and the national level,” Madigan said.

Madigan and her husband, Pat Byrnes, have two young children, ages 7 and 4. She was asked whether she could serve as governor and still raise her kids the way she wants to.

“Wow. Does anybody ever ask that question?” she said. “I’m very lucky to have the support of my family. My husband helps take care of our kids. But, I think more people should ask that of men running for office as well.”

Pressed further on whether she could simultaneously hold both jobs — governor and mom — she said, “I can be the attorney general and do that. There are plenty of women who juggle.”

Reminded that being governor is a lot more demanding than attorney general, she said, “All of these jobs are very demanding. And people who, unfortunately, have to work three jobs and don’t necessarily have health-care coverage — they’re even in a worse situation. So nobody needs to give any pity on what elected officials have to endure.”

The attorney general also reacted to the “Fire Madigan” theme that Republicans have been using as a cornerstone of their fall campaigns in Illinois. The slogan is directed at Madigan’s father, the powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“Michael Madigan has done a fine job as leader of the Democratic Party. We are a strong blue state, and I hope we are in the future,” she said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told Illinois delegates Tuesday morning that the state could contribute five needed seats this November to boost Democrats into the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The path to a majority for Democrats runs right through Illinois,” she said. “We have the opportunity to pick up — out of the 25 net seats we need to gain — we can pick up five here in Illinois.”

Also Tuesday, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told delegates this November’s election has significant implications in the state Senate.

“Because of redistricting and shifting of population, not only will we have the re-election of [President] Obama, but the Illinois Senate is going back into the super majority,” he said.

Democrats now hold a 35-24 majority in the Senate. The party would have to pick up another seat to gain a veto-proof margin in that legislative chamber.

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