Thanks Dad, Now I'll Never Get Elected

When Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced last week that she was running for reelection, a lot of people were puzzled. Madigan, based on most ...
by | July 14, 2009

Lisa Madigan When Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced last week that she was running for reelection, a lot of people were puzzled. Madigan, based on most accounts, wants to be governor. Illinois voters seem to like her. Sure, Illinois already has a Democratic governor in Pat Quinn, but his support for an income tax increase and his Blagojevich ties make him potentially vulnerable.

Why didn't she go for it? Her father may be to blame.

Mike Madigan is the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. He's been in a budget battle with Quinn for months now. Some analysts interpreted the feud as an attempt by the elder Madigan to weaken Quinn, thereby helping his daughter win the primary for governor.

Mike Madigan But, as Rich Miller points out, the effect was the exact opposite:

And as for this widely assumed "grand scheme" by Mike Madigan to undercut Quinn in order to help get his daughter elected governor so they could control our state's political world ... How did that work out?

If you were one of those who believed that the "chess master" was really trying to help his kid, then you now have to admit that he made a horrible mess of things and isn't much of a genius.

Instead of helping her, Speaker Madigan further poisoned an already toxic political atmosphere - making a gubernatorial campaign incredibly difficult for Lisa in the process. After this horrific session, the father would've been a constant and deadly anvil around his progeny's political neck.

Would it be possible for the child of an unpopular politician to win a major elected office? Lisa Madigan decided she didn't want to find out. In Nevada, however, Rory Reid appears to want an answer.

Reid is a leading Democratic candidate for governor of Nevada. He's also the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose approval ratings have suffered in recent months. Chris Cillizza noted that the family connection will be an issue in the campaign:

National Republicans insist that embattled Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) will not be their party's nominee in 2010 -- whether he retires or is beaten in the GOP primary. If Republicans can get rid of Gibbons, their hopes of keeping the Nevada governorship improve considerably. Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid is looking more and more like the Democratic nominee so expect Republicans to try and make hay out of the fact that both he and his dad -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) -- are both on the ballot in 2010.

No one, I'm sure, is going to feel sorry for the children of top elected officials. Their family ties give them an advantage from the moment they enter politics. Whether that advantage persists, however, hinges on how the parents conduct themselves in office.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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