Illinois’ oddest couple — Chuy and Mike — won big in Tuesday’s elections

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Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who won a Democratic nomination for Congress, were big winners — and unlikely partners — in Tuesday’s primary elections. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The oddest political couple in all of Illinois did pretty well in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Two years ago, progressive firebrand Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia helped lead Bernie Sanders’ Democratic campaign in the Chicagoland area and eventually was named a national Sanders media surrogate.

At the same time, Garcia endorsed House Speaker Michael Madigan against a well-funded Democratic primary opponent.


“Now more than ever,” Garcia said in a statement back then, “local families need Michael Madigan in the State Capitol fighting for them.”

It was mainly a marriage of convenience. Madigan needed help with his ward’s Latino voters, and Garcia had some plans of his own that Madigan could help him with. Madigan also likely wanted to make sure that Garcia’s future plans didn’t include trying to knock him off his perch.

Garcia, along with his allies in the Bernie Sanders Our Revolution organization, ran the table in Cook County last week.

They helped trounce Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios by almost 12 points. They soundly defeated Rep. Dan Burke, the younger brother of one of the most powerful Democrats in Chicago (Ald. Ed Burke, who they are going after next). They cruised through a hotly contested four-way primary to replace retiring Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) with Delia Ramirez by 27 points. They buried machine-linked Sen. Martin Sandoval’s (D-Chicago) daughter Angel by 15 points in the race to replace Garcia on the county board. They won a judicial race. And, of course, Garcia walked away with his own congressional nomination by 45 points.

Speaker Madigan carried Mayor Rahm Emanuel to victory in the 13th Ward in Emanuel’s 2015 race against Garcia, but after Garcia endorsed Madigan in 2016, Madigan allied with Garcia on some of this year’s races, including the defeat of Sandoval.

There was admittedly nothing that Madigan could do to help Berrios outside of the 13th Ward (which Berrios won with 56 percent). Berrios had become so toxic that even several politicians who’d endorsed him wouldn’t put his name on their election-day palm cards for fear of alienating voters they needed for other races.

And Rep. Burke was beyond saving as well. Progressive Latinos are demanding their own representation. But because of Madigan’s relationship with Garcia, it’s a fairly safe bet that Aaron Ortiz, who beat Burke, won’t be a thorn in Madigan’s side when he takes office next year.

Without Madigan and the hundreds of precinct captains he controls, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski would be polishing up his thin resume this week. The conservative Democrat narrowly defeated a progressive challenger.

And with Berrios defeated, that’s one fewer issue that Gov. Bruce Rauner will have against Madigan’s favored gubernatorial candidate, J.B. Pritzker, who won last week by 18 points over two public Madigan haters, Chris Kennedy and Sen. Daniel Biss.

Madigan also won some House races against Democratic candidates who talked openly about opposing him.

Madigan’s 17th House District candidate, Jennifer Gong Gershowitz, won by almost 600 votes over Candance Chow, who had vowed to vote against Madigan for House speaker. Madigan’s candidate Lamont Robinson won a four-way primary to replace lieutenant governor nominee Juliana Stratton by 14 points. Madigan’s bitter foe Ken Dunkin came in third in that primary, scoring just 18 percent.

In the 76th House district, Jill Bernal had pledged to vote against Madigan, but she lost to the pro-Madigan Lance Yednock by 15 points to take on freshman Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator).

Madigan’s ally Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) fended off her primary opponent by 15 points. The House speaker’s favored candidate to replace retiring Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills), Daniel Didech, prevailed by 21 points. His candidate to take on Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), Marsha Griffin, sailed through by 26 points.

Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) triumphed by over 65 points. Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-Calumet City) dominated with a 29-point victory. Madigan lieutenant Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) thrashed his opponent by a whopping 53 points despite countless negative news stories about his past.

The one candidate Madigan reportedly didn’t want to win in the crowded primary race to replace retiring House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) was Flynn Rush, the son of US Rep. Bobby Rush. The younger Rush lost to Curtis Tarver by 9 points.

As far as I can tell, not a single anti-Madigan candidate won a House Democratic primary last week.

As I write this, nobody has yet compiled Democratic state central committee race results, so we don’t yet know how Madigan fared there. So, stay tuned on that, because Madigan is the state party chairman and several folks were running to topple him.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

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