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Madigan backing primary challenger to Bobby Rush

Cong. Bobby Rush, at the announcement of the an expansion of the CTA’s successful Second Chance Program, at the CTA Chicago Garage 642 N. Pulaski. Tuesday, January 5, 2016. Brian Jackson/ for the Sun-Times

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is backing Ald. Howard Brookins against veteran U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in the March 15 Democratic primary.

The powerful speaker — who also is chairman of the state Democratic Party — customarily supports the party’s incumbents. But Brookins is listed as the preferred candidate of Madigan’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization on the newly printed “sample ballots” sent to voters in the speaker’s Southwest Side power base.

The Madigan organization’s “palm card” promotes none of the candidates in the heated primary for Cook County state’s attorney. Two former employees of that office, Kim Foxx and Donna More, are challenging incumbent Anita Alvarez.

Dorothy Brown, the clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, is the only other incumbent that the 13rd Ward Democrats are spurning.  The organization is backing Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) — who already won the county party’s support — over Brown, who was contacted by FBI agents last year.

Rush has represented the state’s 1st Congressional District since 1993, usually with only token re-election foes. He easily brushed aside a primary challenge in 2000 from Barack Obama, who was a state senator at the time.

And Rush said Monday he doesn’t expect Madigan’s endorsement will help Brookins because only one 13th Ward precinct is in his congressional district.

“To my recollection, I have never received an endorsement from the 13th Ward,” Rush said in a phone interview from Washington.

Rush said he did not know why Madigan would support a challenger against him.

“In 23 years, we haven’t had any reason to have any major differences,” Rush said.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he did not know why the speaker backed Brookins.

Ald. Howard Brookins, a Democratic candidate in Illinois' 1st Congressional District. File Photo. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times)

Ald. Howard Brookins, a Democratic candidate in Illinois’ 1st Congressional District. File Photo. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times)

Brookins, who’s been 21st Ward alderman since 2003, said Madigan deployed members of his ward organization to collect nominating signatures for his run against Rush.

“I asked the speaker early on if he would support me, and he said he’d help me,” Brookins said. “I’ve known the speaker for more than half of my life, since my father was a state representative. I’m proud to say he’s supporting me.”

City of Chicago worker O. Patrick Brutus is also challenging Rush in the primary.