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National Editorial & Columnists

With too many Madigans, did right one defer?

Lisa won’t run for governor as long as father remains speaker

In a state where three people tightly control the power to make laws – the governor and the boss of each legislative chamber – two of those people ought not be father and daughter.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan acknowledged on Monday what many Illinoisans were coming to conclude: It would be untenable to have a Gov. Lisa Madigan serve as a check on the influence of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

On Monday the attorney general freed the electorate from that prospect. “I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case. With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor.”

She’ll instead seek a fourth, 4-year term as attorney general. Not that staying put liberates her from wry comments about Illinois having “too many Madigans.” Critics make a parlor game of asking questions that hinge on their tidy duality.

Example: “Does the attorney general think the speaker’s pension reform plan is constitutional?”

If she acceded to the governorship before her father abdicates, she would face more accusations of conflicts – and more genuine problems in dealing with the Legislature her dad dominates.

Assuming this is the whole story, then Lisa Madigan’s decision to acknowledge the elephant in the room became easier in recent days. Michael Madigan last week admitted wielding his clout to seek a raise for one of his political allies (and donors) at Metra, the commuter rail agency. Metra’s ex-CEO also accuses the speaker of trying to clout another individual into a job.

Michael Madigan’s displays of hubris don’t help his daughter, no matter what office she seeks.

Both Madigans previously had suggested they could co-exist as speaker and governor.

As recently as June 27, Lisa Madigan emphatically told a reporter that her father “wouldn’t have to step down” if she ran for governor. Asked if he should step down, she dodged, saying she wouldn’t give him political advice.

Michael Madigan similarly has pooh-poohed questions implying what everyone else could see: No family should hold two of those three top jobs.

As the public learns more about the speaker’s unchecked zeal for wielding his influence, voters may ask more questions about the wisdom of having one family in the roles of speaker and chief law enforcement officer.

The race for governor could go in any direction. As is, Democrats would choose between Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger William Daley. Republicans have a growing list of options.

For now, a new parlor game: Wouldn’t Illinois be better off if Madigan pere had deferred to Madigan fille?

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