Madigan and Herseth Sandlin: Two Democratic Women Stay Put

Off years in politics are mostly spent waiting. We can't say much that's intelligent about an election until we know who is running. ...
by | July 8, 2009

Off years in politics are mostly spent waiting. We can't say much that's intelligent about an election until we know who is running. This morning, the wait is over in two states, after one surprising decision and one very surprising decision.

First, the very surprising one. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is seeking reelection, as the Washington Post reports.

(Hat tip: Political Wire).

If there was one thing that most analysts didn't think Madigan -- one of the most (only?) popular politicians in Illinois -- would do, it's seek reelection. The Democrat could have sought the U.S. Senate seat that Roland Burris is keeping warm. She could also have sought the governorship, which seemed to be the office she really wanted, but that would have meant a campaign against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Why did Madigan choose none of the above? My guess is that she really wants to be governor, but didn't want to make a race against an incumbent Democrat. Quinn is 60, Madigan is 42. She will have plenty of opportunities to run for governor after he has departed the political scene. Why make a risky bid now or go to Washington, when that's not where she wants to be?

Also, Madigan's father is the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. Illinois governors don't tend to get along with the Illinois legislature, as Quinn is proving right now. Madigan may have worried that being governor would mean either starting a family feud (that sure would have been exciting) or deferring to the judgment of the legislature more than she would like. Voters may have balked at giving so much power to one family.

To the surprising decision: Politico reports that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, South Dakota's only member of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced she would seek reelection instead of running for governor.

(Hat tip: Swing State Project)

Herseth Sandlin is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party because she's young (only 38), politically connected and a proven winner in a red state. I tended to think she would run for the open governor's seat. Being a governor offers more opportunities for ambitious politicians than being one of 435 members of the House.

However, Herseth Sandlin does seem to have a bright future in Washington, so she may not have wanted to give that up. Plus, as an at-large House member, she would have a much easier time making it to the U.S. Senate (another decent place for launching a national political career) than your typical House member.

And, this could have been a family decision. Her husband (a former congressman) is a Capitol Hill lobbyist. Herseth Sandlin also has a son who is less than a year old.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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