Could the daughter of one Democratic political powerhouse replace another as Illinois attorney general?
It’ll happen if the City Council’s elder statesman has his way.
Cook County Democratic Chairman Joe Berrios said he got a courtesy call over the weekend from Ald. Edward Burke (14th) to let him know that Burke’s daughter would be circulating nominating petitions to run for attorney general.
Berrios initially identified the daughter as Jennifer Burke. Neither Jennifer Burke nor her father could be reached for comment. They work together at the law firm of Klafter & Burke.
But another source said the daughter maneuvering to replace Lisa Madigan is Sarah Burke, an attorney who serves as director of external affairs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Sarah Burke could not be reached for comment.
Klafter & Burke specializes in property tax appeals and has three dozen clients that do business with the city — even though that creates a conflict that requires Edward Burke, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, to recuse himself from countless City Council votes.
Berrios said Edward Burke did not solicit his support for his daughter. He simply called “as a courtesy” to let Berrios know that his daughter was gathering signatures in the wake of Madigan’s stunning announcement Friday not to seek a fifth term as attorney general.
Edward Burke is perfectly positioned to help either one of his daughters.
He’s the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving alderman. He’s also chairman of judicial slate-making for the Cook County Democratic Organization. The three political funds under his control together have $4.3 million.
Burke’s wife and Jennifer and Sarah’s mother is Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who has a $177,848 campaign fund of her own.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee and Democratic committeeman of the South Side ward, said the timing of Madigan’s withdrawal and Sarah Burke’s entry raise questions.
“If it appears that this was coordination and an under-handed deal….because this was done so late in the season for somebody to get up enough petitions of support, there will be resentment,” Brookins said.
It’s not the first time that a daughter of Ald. Burke has been in the eye of a political storm.
In 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Jennifer Burke to a $117,000-a-year job at the Illinois Pollution Control Board. At the time, Jennifer Burke was working as a $99,948-a-year supervisor in the city’s Law Department.
The lucrative appointment stirred controversy because Ald. Burke had loaned Quinn’s gubernatorial campaign $200,000 and donated $52,000 more.
Berrios said he intends to wait a few weeks for all of the interested candidates to make themselves known and gather signatures, then summon Democratic ward bosses who had endorsed Madigan to another slatemaking session.
“We will have a meeting. If someone gets 50 percent-plus-one, then we will slate,” Berrios said Monday.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz, former mayoral challenger Gery Chico, State Rep. Ann Williams and Andy Schapiro, an attorney and Democratic mega-fundraiser who served as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, are all considering a race for attorney general.
With candidates coming out of the woodwork and aides to House Speaker and State Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan assuring Berrios that the elder Madigan plans to “stay out of it,” Berrios was asked to assess the chances that one candidate would get the majority needed for slating.
“How many candidates did we have for governor and someone was able to garnish 50 percent-plus-one? ” Berrios said of billionaire J.B. Pritzker.
“It’s all done by committee. The black caucus within the Democratic party has a lot of votes. So, it’s gonna be an interesting decision.”
Another leading Democrat, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “If Jesse [Ruiz], Kwame and [Burke’s daughter] all get in, there’s no way somebody will get 51 percent.”
Berrios is close to both Madigans, but said he was “shocked” by Lisa Madigan’s decision.
“I had petitions on the street,” he said.
“She put ’em out. She sent letters to everyone. [Then] something happened and she made the decision that she didn’t want to do this anymore. What that is, I’m sure we’ll all find out. … I don’t know if she was tired” or what happened to change her mind.