* My Crain’s Chicago Business column…
The Democratic Party in Illinois is dominated by powerful, entrenched politicians with huge egos who don’t really care much about each other.
It’s not that they necessarily go out of their way to hurt one another, mind you. It’s that they don’t do more than is absolutely necessary to help each other. Yet a recent summit is a sign the Democrats want to change.
Despite their long tenures, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin don’t work together very well. Mr. Durbin was elected to the Senate in 1996 after serving in the U.S. House for 14 years.
Over the years Mr. Durbin has unofficially assumed several of the duties normally held by the state party chairman, a post held since 1998 by Mr. Madigan.
Although Mr. Madigan has focused on his House candidates to the exclusion of everyone and everything else, he doesn’t often care for the way Mr. Durbin has usurped his role.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who is up for re-election, is a longtime political outsider. He lacks the clout of Messrs. Durbin and Madigan and operates mostly in his own domain, although he often has helped lower-tiered candidates.
The same go-it-alone approach applies to organized labor. The trade unions never have loved the public employees unions, and government workers are still furious at Mr. Quinn, Mr. Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton over the pension overhaul law passed in December.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees hasn’t given any money to Mr. Madigan’s campaign committees in years.
But something happened this year that has changed everything.
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