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Daley vs. Madigan would be dramatic chapter in family feud

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley left talks with Rep. Mike Madigan speaker Illinois House Representatives while Daley testified House committee proposed

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, left, talks with Rep. Mike Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, while Daley testified at a House committee on proposed gun control legislation at the Capitol building in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1999. (AP Photo/Randy Squires)

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Updated: February 26, 2013 6:33AM

Bill Daley and Lisa Madigan both have a history of flirting with running for higher office, only to have it dissolve into a political tease.

But — if it’s real this time and two of the most powerful political families in Chicago and Illinois history actually do square off in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary — it’ll be a dramatic crescendo to a decades-long family feud.

Daley’s brother, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), were one-time Springfield companions who turned into political rivals.

Their relationship began as a social one. Madigan, whose father was a leading 13th Ward precinct captain and ward superintendent, met then-Mayor Richard J. Daley’s son when both young men were in law school. Madigan was a student at Loyola. Daley was at DePaul.

They served together as delegates to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, becoming friends and frequent dinner companions. Madigan was elected to the House in 1970. Daley won a seat in the state Senate two years later.

The first public sign of trouble occurred in 1979 after Jane Byrne upset then-incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic. Daley, then 11th Ward Democratic committeeman, had sought Madigan’s help in a potential move to thwart Byrne. Madigan stood with Byrne, presumably to protect his lucrative legal business.

Daley and Mike Madigan were also on opposite sides of Daley’s highly-publicized campaign to lift the sales tax on food and drugs.

Madigan subsequently supported Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) over Daley in the 1980 Democratic primary for state’s attorney.

True to form, Madigan stuck with the incumbent mayor in the 1983 mayoral primary fight that featured Byrne, Daley and Harold Washington. In 1987, Madigan remained loyal to incumbent Washington over challenger Tom Hynes, a Daley ally.

Daley’s 1989 election as mayor was followed by one of the most successful legislative sessions Chicago has ever had.

It featured a state income tax increase with half the money earmarked for schools, a gas tax increase to bankroll a massive infrastructure program and $150 million to renovate Navy Pier.

Madigan shepherded Daley’s agenda. But, sources said the new mayor “didn’t talk directly to Mike.” He had his top aides Ed Bedore and Tim Degnan deal with the speaker.

After that, Madigan was quick to flex his legislative muscle whenever Daley said or did anything to undercut his position.

When Daley expressed a willingness to consider suburban property tax caps vehemently opposed by Madigan, the speaker retaliated by releasing from committee a bill that would have outlawed Chicago’s new soda pop tax.

In turn, Daley tried to cut Madigan down to size when he got the chance, routinely ignoring the speaker’s advice.

When new ward boundaries were drawn in 1991, Daley’s map makers deliberately carved Midway Airport out of Madigan’s 13th Ward in the belief that the airport was a locus of Madigan’s power.

The speaker went to bat for City Hall on Daley’s mega-plans for a land-based casino and a Lake Calumet airport, only to have Daley change his mind and walk away from the projects.

Through much of Daley’s 22-year reign, the mayor and speaker pushed Chicago’s legislative agenda with an arms-length suspicion fit for a husband and wife — each of whom suspects the other of cheating.

They managed to put aside their differences twice — in 1996 for a coordinated campaign that helped Madigan regain control over the Illinois House and in 2002 when Daley endorsed then-State Sen. Lisa Madigan over his former chief of staff John Schmidt in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

Until then, Daley had steered clear of contested primaries. But, he made a self-described “exception” for Lisa Madigan in a pragmatic political payback to her powerful father.

“He’s been very cooperative in the past and the present. ... He’s been a great supporter for schools — a great supporter for many things. Look at his record,” Daley said then.

“I don’t owe him. I don’t owe anyone. I have known Mike Madigan since the ‘60s. I know his family well. He has had a wonderful career in politics. Lisa has a wonderful career in politics. It’s not loyalty. I think she’s competent as well. I’m endorsing Lisa Madigan. I make no apologies to anyone about that.”

Daley’s endorsement of Lisa Madigan was a surprise — and not just because of his timid track record.

The mayor had also criticized Lisa Madigan behind the scenes for opposing some of his pet projects, including the expansion of McCormick Place and the $606 million renovation of Soldier Field. Lisa Madigan also voted against the fees that bankrolled then-Gov. George Ryan’s Illinois FIRST program, which Daley wholeheartedly supported.

Lisa Madigan, then 35, issued a statement touting the endorsement from the man she called, “Illinois’ most prominent Democratic Party leader.” Ironically, that was a title that many political observers believed her father deserved more than Daley.

In a follow-up interview, she refused to credit her father’s political muscle for delivering the pivotal mayoral endorsement.

“I don’t think the mayor or the speaker are in a position where they are beholden to each other. They’re both independently successful and independently powerful. They both have to be concerned about the city of Chicago, but they differ with each other,” she said then.

On Thursday, Mike Madigan could not be reached for comment about the long-standing rivalry between the two powerful families.

During a 1993 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, the speaker acknowledged an “on-again-off-again” relationship with Rich Daley that has mirrored the twists and turns of Chicago politics.

“It relates to two people coming out of the same background working their way through the politics of Chicago and Cook County at times traveling different paths,” Madigan said then.

Asked about a history of tension between the two powerful families, Bill Daley said Thursday he knows of no deep-seeded issues beyond normal politics.

“I’m sure when Rich was mayor, there’s always tension there — political tension. It’s more for people in the same business. ... Rich and Mike are of the [same] generation ... coming up together in politics,” Bill Daley said.

He added, “Lisa is younger, obviously, so my interaction has been limited.”

Contributing: Natasha Korecki

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