In a stunning move, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Friday she will not be seeking re-election, driving a bulldozer through the state’s political landscape.
The North Side Democrat offered little explanation for her decision or the late timing of her announcement — candidates for other statewide offices have been campaigning and raising money for months and are already scrambling to get signatures on their nominating petitions.
But Madigan assured Mayor Rahm Emanuel that she is not seeking to run for mayor of Chicago in 2019, sources told the Sun-Times.
“After serving as Illinois Attorney General for over 14 years, today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection,” she said in a statement.
Madigan, 51, has served as the state’s attorney general since 2003, and is the first woman to hold the office. She also served as a state senator from 1998 to 2002.
Earlier this year, Madigan said she would seek re-election. And her name has been in the mix for everything from governor, mayor to the U.S. Senate for years. In mulling a run for governor in 2013, Madigan said she wouldn’t run because of her father — who is the longest serving House speaker in the country.
Madigan touched off the Illinois version of a political earthquake by issuing a press release, then went into hiding. She refused repeated requests for an interview. That left political observers to wonder what, if anything happened to cause her to change her mind about running for a fifth-term next year.
Was it a personal choice? Was it the results of a recent poll? Was it Gov. Bruce Rauner’s threat to pump $30 million into the campaign of Erika Harold, the Harvard-educated attorney and former Miss America who would likely have been her Republican opponent? The threat of an ugly campaign that might have tarnished Lisa Madigan’s reputation by focusing on the role her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, played in the marathon state budget stalemate?
Or was it simply the fact that, after a record four terms as attorney general, it was time for Lisa Madigan to make the money she needs to send her children to college?
“She has the best political job in the state. It’s 9-to-5. She gets to pick her issues and her targets, file whatever lawsuits she wants to file on popular consumer issues with no pressure at all. It’s literally like porn for lawyers,” said one political observer, who asked to remain anonymous.
“The only reason you would give up a job like that is to make money.”
Madigan’s father released a statement about the decision, saying her achievements “have been the result of her determination to fight for her convictions and to stand up for what she believed was right.”
With Friday’s shocker, Madigan solidifies her reputation as the master of political surprise.
Four years ago, she compiled a $4.8 million campaign war chest with cash raised while she flirted with running for governor.
She dropped out after concluding that “the state would not be well-served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family” and that she had “never planned to run for governor if that would be the case.”
“My own sense of it is, with a young family I can understand the pressures. I don’t know if she cited that,” the mayor said on Friday after learning of the attorney general’s decision to retire from politics — for now.
Shortly thereafter, the mayor called Madigan to “congratulate and thank her” for her decades of service. During that conversation, City Hall sources said Madigan assured Emanuel she was not running for mayor in 2019, when Emanuel is widely expected to seek a third term.
Madigan dropped the political bombshell just two weeks after dropping a legal one. She filed a lawsuit against the city seeking federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
After months of resistance, Emanuel was finally on board and vowed to negotiate with Madigan to finalize a consent decree with rigid timetables and financial commitments toward police reform.
The consent decree is expected to culminate in the appointment of a federal monitor to ride herd over the Chicago Police Department. On Friday, City Hall sources suggested that Madigan could become the monitor.
It’s a part-time job that would be very lucrative for an attorney in private practice, just as it was for a decade for federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan.
Emanuel only fueled that speculation when he was quoted in the statement as saying, “While Attorney General Madigan may not be running for reelection, I am confident she will continue her selfless service beyond I, and I look forward to working with her in the years to come.”