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Lisa Madigan’s major campaign issue? Her dad, rival’s poll finds

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Lisa Madigan

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Updated: July 20, 2013 6:56AM



There’s no question that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is personally popular statewide.

However, while more than half of voters have a good opinion of her, her powerful father, Speaker Michael Madigan, could definitely be a campaign issue.

Support for Lisa Madigan’s potential run for governor tumbles considerably when her father enters the picture, according to a campaign poll released to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The poll was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove of 600 likely general election voters in April on behalf of the William Daley campaign/

It looked at how Lisa Madigan would compete against a “placeholder Republican,” in this case, gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford, as well as how her numbers would look should Michael Madigan remain in his position.

Respondents initially chose Lisa Madigan over Rutherford by 11 percentage points. But once those surveyed were asked about the familial relationship between Lisa Madigan and her father should he remain as Speaker, Rutherford and Lisa Madigan were in a dead heat.

“We say right out from the beginning that she’s a popular official. Then we gave very basic information that the two are related. It moved independents 27 points,” pollster John Anzalone told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We weren’t in there beating the hell out of her, we were aware that we would have to make sure there wasn’t a lot of bias up front.”

The numbers changed considerably once those polled were asked again for whom they’d vote for governor after hearing that if Lisa Madigan were elected governor and her father remained Speaker it would create “a major conflict of interest to have family members running both branches of state government.”

Overall the poll found that Lisa Madigan was popular with voters: 54 percent had a favorable opinion of her, and 26 percent had an unfavorable view. It’s essentially the reverse for her father. Michael Madigan is viewed favorably by only 25 percent of voters and unfavorably by 46 percent, according to the survey.

That disparity helps explain the shifting opinions in the poll.

More than 50 percent of those queried said they had a “serious concern” about Lisa Madigan being governor and while her father served as speaker, and another 17 percent said they had somewhat of a concern — meaning nearly 70 percent overall had an issue with the arrangement.

The wording in the question is undoubtedly loaded. However, it is likely to pale in comparison to how opponents would portray Lisa Madigan in TV ads during a primary or general election.

“Biased language? I don’t think that it’s anything in the extreme. We’re not making the argument that mimics paid communication,” Anzalone said. “It clearly affects the vote when you help people connect the dots.”

Lisa Madigan has not announced a bid for governor but has repeatedly stated she’s “very interested.” Her campaign has raised more than $4.2 million — far more than any other candidate, including Daley, who has loaned himself $100,000 after announcing his exploratory committee last week.

The publicized poll numbers come as Daley is attempting to position himself as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary by bruising Lisa Madigan. Last week, Lisa Madigan responded to Daley’s announcement of his bid by pointing to his own struggling poll numbers.

The data released by Daley’s campaign did not explore how voters would react when asked about the former Commerce secretary’s relationship to his brother and father — both former Chicago mayors.

Still, the poll, as well as another poll released this week that shows Lisa Madigan’s numbers are slipping, aren’t good news for the three-term attorney general if she is positioning herself for a run for higher office.

At the very least, it exerts more pressure on her to deal with the potential fallout over her father’s position.

“It’s the two masters sort of thing,” said Springfield political scientist Kent Redfield. “The conflict is that you have a family relationship and therefore are you going to allow that to shade what you do? Will you pull your punches? Will you modify your behavior because of your relationship?”

“This creates a very complicated situation. No question about it.”

An aide close to Lisa Madigan focused on the numbers that showed Lisa Madigan’s strengths.

“These poll numbers are nothing new. The Attorney General’s popularity has always been attributed to the fact that she has proven time and again she is an independent, effective leader whose priority is service to the people of the state,” an aide close to Lisa Madigan said.

Moreover, those who challenge Michael Madigan head-on are by and largely left in the dust. For instance, after the Republican party went on its “fire Madigan” campaign, the Speaker ended up with an even stronger majority in the Illinois House.

“That is a little bit head in the sand because I think voters are already there,” Anzalone said. “Our poll shows that people already believed it’s a conflict.”

In Springfield on Tuesday, the Speaker chuckled sarcastically when asked about a possible conflict with he and his daughter holding those offices.

“Oh, really?” he said.

He was asked if he saw it as a conflict of interest — having a Gov. Madigan and a Speaker Madigan.

“You know what, I’m not going to address those questions today,” Michael Madigan said. “But you should take the conflict of interest questions to your editors. Talk to them about conflict of interest.”

Contributing: Zach Buchheit



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