It’s Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair.
On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers congregated in Springfield for a brunch (and photo-op) that attracted about 1,400 people. Afterward the group descended upon the fairgrounds to continue a show of solidarity with Quinn, who’s facing a tough re-election challenge from GOP nominee Bruce Rauner.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was there. So too were U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Quinn running mate Paul Vallas, who addressed the string of corporate scandals related to Rauner’s former private equity firm, GTCR.
Conspicuously absent? Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. He didn’t show up last year, either.
The Springfield ringmaster — who’s viewed as a shadow governor of sorts, the real power broker running the show — is also the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Given his high rank, you’d think Madigan would be there with bells on, the first to arrive and the last to leave. His no-show carries a whiff of possible tension with Quinn.
First of all, yesterday was Governor’s Day, not Democrat Day. And a couple of years ago, after being loudly and roundly booed by AFSCME members, Madigan grew tired of the sideshow atmosphere and handed the event to the governor’s office.
And other democrats who made the trip to Springfield wondered why their state party chairman, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, did not attend the events during a year with six statewide offices on the ballot.
ABC7’s Charles Thomas: “He’s the party chairman and he’s not here?”
Quinn: “Well, everybody in, nobody left out in my book, yeah.”
“He’s the hardest-working party chair the state has,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
ABC7’s Charles Thomas: “So he’s not here, does that mean anything?
Lisa Madigan: “Apparently, it does to you. So you can comment on it.”
* The explanation…
A Madigan spokesman said the party chief was away fund-raising, and Democratic officials knew he would not be at the fair.
“He’s been raising campaign funds out of state. He’s been doing that all summer,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown, predicting: “We’re going to be badly outspent.”
Brown said they’re keeping the fund-raising location close to the vest.
For appearance purposes, he probably should’ve been there. But Madigan isn’t one who cares much for optics, as his horrific approval ratings clearly demonstrate. And yet, considering those ratings, maybe it’s best that he stayed away.