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Kadner: Madigan “decided his career was more important than his daughter’s”

Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017

* Phil Kadner recalls a conversation with Speaker Madigan sometime around the turn of the century

“What is it that you have accomplished?” I asked. “What would you like to be remembered for? What do you really care about?”

Madigan’s answer stunned me and other members of the Daily Southtown editorial board who were present at the time.

He said there were two things that really mattered to him as House speaker. The first was maintaining the Democratic Party’s majority in the Illinois House of Representatives. The second was his daughter, Lisa Madigan’s, political career.

No surprise there, particularly at that time. The House Democrats had the barest of majorities and then-Sen. Madigan was gearing up to run statewide.

* Then Phil goes through the public split the two had back in 2013 when Lisa said she wouldn’t run for governor as long as her father remained the House Speaker

As for Madigan, he responded, “Lisa and I had spoken about that on several occasions, and she knew very well that I did not plan to retire. She knew what my position was.

“She knew,” he repeated for emphasis.

* Conclusion

He told me he had warned his daughter not to make the same mistake that he had. He had stayed in the Illinois House for too long, gotten too comfortable, and missed his opportunity to move on to higher office.

I thought there was deep regret in his voice. Timing is everything in politics and Madigan seemed to feel he had missed his moment. Lesser people had done better.

That’s sad if it’s true. But sadder still if when it mattered, he decided his career was more important than his daughter’s.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    Sad is a good word.

    Lots of other Illinois residents also have “deep regret” that Speaker Madigan did not move on.

  2. - Molly Maguire - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:13 pm:


  3. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:18 pm:

    He didn’t decide his career was more important than Lisa’s. He simply did not want to retire because he loves working and is afraid to retire because he is afraid of the unknown. I think he is afraid of not having a purpose or a job to go to. I don’t think it has anything to do with money or power.

  4. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:18 pm:

    ==and missed his opportunity to move on to higher office.==

    I guess all politicians believe they’re so well-loved that higher office is automatic.

  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:21 pm:

    I don’t know what possesses some to pontificate on other peoples inner-family dynamics. You can’t possibly know anything about it and it’s none of your business.

  6. - Responsa - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:29 pm:

    ==He had stayed in the Illinois House for too long, gotten too comfortable, and missed his opportunity to move on to higher office.==

    I would love to know what higher office(s) he might have had in mind when he said that.

  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:31 pm:

    ===what higher office(s) he might have had in mind===

    He floated his name for Cook Co. Board President back in the day.

  8. - Curl of the Burl - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:32 pm:

    Speaker Madigan has far more power as House Speaker than he ever would have had in (pretty much) any other office.

    Word - your point is valid BUT most families do not have a grip on the Illinois House and AG’s office. When governance is involved that makes it noteworthy.

  9. - MOON - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:35 pm:

    I believe the Speaker realizes that running for Governor in 2014 was a loosing proposition given the state Illinois was in.

    Even if Lisa ran and won, the problems she would be facing would be so great that she would be a one term Governor.

  10. - Doug - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:38 pm:

    ——–I don’t know what possesses some to pontificate on other peoples inner-family dynamics. You can’t possibly know anything about it and it’s none of your business.

    When two of the most powerful people in your state are related….it is your business.

  11. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    Phil is conflating conversations from very different times and contexts and making unfounded assumptions about how to construe them. He’s basing some eyepopping conclusions on a very shakey foundation.

  12. - Rod - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    That was a very strange article by Phil Kadner he links a discussion at an editorial Board meeting that took place in 1996 with Lisa Madigan’s withdrawing from running for Governor in 2013. The concept of the linkage apparently is that the Speaker indicated he was concerned about Lisa’s political career and did not withdraw as Speaker of the House. But that assumes really that Speaker Madigan believed it was a good idea for his daughter to run for Governor to begin with. We don’t know if that was the case or not.

    Way too much speculation, really the article would be good bar room political talk, and much better not put into print.

  13. - northsider (the original) - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    I’m with Wordslinger on this. Every family has its own dynamic and it’s rather presumptuous to speculate or opine on family decisions or relationships.
    That said, I think it’s evident that the members of the Madigan family love one another, which in the end is all that counts.

  14. - Because I said so.... - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    Much like a marriage, no one knows what goes on in a family unless you are on the inside. To judge from the outside assumes a lot that may or may not be true but more often the latter.

  15. - Amalia - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:41 pm:

    oh, poor little smart boy who didn’t go higher. all he got was to be the Speaker and to rake in the money on all those assessment cases. Meanwhile, his daughter gets to waltz into a State Senate seat and then the AG spot. she has done some great things while in office, but I feel not one bit sorry, for either of them. come on.

  16. - The Captain - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    === Meanwhile, his daughter gets to waltz into a State Senate seat and then the AG spot. ===

    Waltz? That 2002 race for Attorney General was brutal.

  17. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    ===race for Attorney General was brutal===

    The Senate race was also thus. No waltz there.

  18. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 2:53 pm:

    Lisa Madigan is a nice lady in my experience and has been a very good AG but she never would have taken that office at such a young age, maybe ever, without her dad’s power and influence.

    It’s silly to pity her for her father if he is the reason she chose not to run for governor. That was her choice and if she had decided instead to run there is no guarantee she would have lost because of her father.

  19. - Thoughts Matter - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:04 pm:

    Lisa knew her father was in politics before she decided to be in politics. She’s a well educated person, who surely understood her father’s enjoyment of his job. She may have thought he’d retire a few years back - but she wasn’t giving it enough thought In that case. If she wants higher office, there is plenty to choose from on the national level.

  20. - Bobby Hicks - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    Lisa took one for the team, she knew that the ticket would be stronger without a Madigan on it. Mike, I believe, is going to ride it out and see Rauner go down…..then he’s out. Just my observation.

  21. - Midway Gardens - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:09 pm:

    == I think he is afraid of not having a purpose or a job to go to. I don’t think it has anything to do with money or power.

    If he stopped being speaker, he’d still have his law firm to work at. Unless you think the business there would dry up if he wasn’t speaker…So good point.

  22. - Norseman - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:09 pm:

    Does Kadner feel sorry for poor Prince Charles? He’ll have one foot in the grave by the time he becomes King.

  23. - Mad Again - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:18 pm:

    =Lisa took one for the team=
    Took what? Durbin’s Senate seat when he retires?

  24. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:27 pm:

    To the Post,

    Family that share a “business” career link always makes it complicated.

    In any career, there may be regret, there may also be a true reflection on that career as to the what ifs or look now.

    To paraphrase a line, for every dream there is conflict and compromise.

    Nothing ever works perfect, all choices lead to roads not traveled.

    Why would the Madigans be any different?

    I dunno what the dynamic is, I don’t pretend to think I can even grasp what it could be. I can appreciate a premise of a parent warning their adult child of pitfalls in the business they share. I can appreciate the thought, not that o know how Mike Madugan feels, about career regret of roads not taken.

    The lazy story is this story and the hook of it that “Mike” stifled “Lisa” for “Mike”.

    The real story that would be the one that I’d find interesting would be the struggle of one, in reflecting back, and the duality of warning and the melancholy as to why the warning is given.

    I’m not insinuating that IS the Madigans’ story, but the simple premise above is mailing in an idea others want the story to be about. Usually at that point you rip up the pages and start over, but it doesn’t make it not interesting to others.

  25. - DeseDemDose - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:30 pm:

    It would be prudent to wait until the Madigan family updates come out. There is more to this story.

  26. - W Flag - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:38 pm:

    Apart from maintaining his legislative majority and electing his daughter (her 2002 AG campaign was brutal because she faced more accomplished lawyers in both the primary and the general) AG, what monuments will there be for the longest serving Speaker? Higher taxes for all?

  27. - Responsa - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:38 pm:

    I believe there is a short term and a longer term plan in place. I don’t know what it is but as DeseDemDose said above, I also am sure there is more to this story.

  28. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:41 pm:

    Dan Hynes: comptroller age 30.
    Alexi Giannoulias: treasurer, age 30.
    Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, age 37.
    Rod Blagojevich: Congress 41, Governor age 45.

    The notion that Madigan was particularly young and inexperienced is ridiculously false.

    The idea that she wouldn’t have been elected but for her connections is true. But it is also true in almost every case that people win big elections because of their connections to wealth and powerful people or both, oftentimes through family.

    No one ever complained that George Ryan was only elected to public office at the tender age of 34 only because of his family’s political connections.

    We seem to have an intense double-standard when it comes to “legacy pledges” like Lisa Madigan and Hillary Clintoncthat happen to be women.

  29. - Truthteller - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    Ironic that Madigan was widely criticized for promoting his daughter’s candidacy for the State Senate and for A.G, and now he’s criticized for not advancing her career.
    I guess Rauner’s right. Whatever the Speaker does is wrong

  30. - dbk - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:58 pm:

    OK, I apologize in advance as I’m a newly-converted IL politics devotee, but here’s my two cents as an neophyte-but-avid-follower.

    Madigan pere is one of the most gifted politicians I’ve ever observed (from the outside, obviously - I’m not “in” politics). Whatever one might feel about him personally, he has the gift, he can create coalitions - alliances that bring legislation home: knowledge, networks, timing, instinct - he’s got it all. And that, more than anything else, is why he’s been in power so long.

    I also follow national politics fairly closely, and am convinced that qua politician, he’s better at the game than Durbin (who’s pretty good), or Pelosi (who’s very good).

    You don’t have to like him personally to appreciate that he’s a master politician.

    With respect to his daughter, I’ve read all the possible positions she might be considering in future - I just can’t believe that at 51, she’s through; she’s just attaining full mastery.

    An IL Supreme Court position might be a possibility (mentioned here last week), but the state SCs aren’t where the action is these days, it’s all in the federal system, from which she’s excluded until at least 2021.

    She is nationally known and highly respected by Dem AGs; the solution she found for the CPD is being considered by other AGs in states with cities whose consent decrees were dropped by the US AG. Maybe a position with NAAG?

  31. - Juice - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 3:58 pm:

    “The Senate race was also thus. No waltz there.”

    Rich, she beat Farley by like 30 points.

  32. - Bobby Hicks - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:00 pm:

    @ Mad Again - perhaps. There is a logic, trust me.

  33. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:02 pm:

    ===Rich, she beat Farley by like 30 points. ===

    So? I covered that race. It was nasty.

  34. - Morty - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:09 pm:

    Wait, I thought Madigan ran everything in Illinois?

    What “higher office’” is there?



  35. - Morty - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:15 pm:

    I’m no Madigan fan.

    At all.

    But could it be he blocked her for a reason?

    Let’s face it, anyone taking over for Quinn was going to be holding the bag on some bad Times in Illinois

    Not to excuse the job BVR has done, because, it’s pretty evident he’s made things demonstratably worse the last 2 years

  36. - BuckinIrish - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:16 pm:

    ==He simply did not want to retire because he loves working and is afraid to retire because he is afraid of the unknown. I think he is afraid of not having a purpose or a job to go to. I don’t think it has anything to do with money or power.==

    I agree. One could compare it too college football coaches who had been at their programs for over 20-30 years. Bear Bryant at Alabama dies right after retiring because to go from that much stress and spotlight to…nothing can leave a man empty. Bobby Bowden at Florida State had to be fired because he was afraid the same fate could follow him. When you’ve done something that consumes your whole life, nothing could ever fill that void. I get the law firm thing but its not like he would be litigating. Do you really see Madigan enjoying that doing it everyday?

  37. - Morty - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:19 pm:

    Or he did the math and saw BVR winning and he felt he was the only one who could block him?

    I don’t subscribe to that theory, but Madigan has the reputation as being a savy operator.

    Or maybe he’s just selfish. I imagine Lisa Madigan is the only one who can tell that story

  38. - Juice - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:21 pm:

    I’m not saying there weren’t nasty attacks. But she won the race by a large margin against an incumbent who was under indictment. Not exactly the toughest challenge, especially compared to the 2002 AG race.

  39. - Trapped in the 'burbs - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:22 pm:

    From the outside looking in, without any legitimate basis, my guess is that she wants to be a Supreme Court Justice. If Freeman retires or Burke chooses not to run for retention, Lisa has a path. Her father obviously loves what he does and doesn’t want to sit by a pool in Florida. Whether you like him or not, you have to respect a person that prefers work to retirement. There are a lot of public sector employees that have maxed out their pension benefits but continue to work because they love what they do.

  40. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    ===Not exactly the toughest challenge===

    The end result did not reflect the amount of work and nastiness put into that race by both sides. Beating Ken Dunkin looks easy if you just factor in the end result. It was still a brutal campaign.

  41. - Responsa - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:29 pm:

    Wouldn’t it be a hoot if it turns out that Lisa went into law and politics–the family business– because it felt at the time like it was her duty to go into the family business? And is now ready to get out? It wouldn’t be the first time a child has decided over time that the family business isn’t for them. Let’s not make this whole story about Mike.

  42. - low level - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:33 pm:

    “When two have the most powerful offices it is our business”
    “Raising money”

    All these types comments again assume they know better than the voters of his representative district and the Dem caucus.

    As to “accomplishments” - is that the role of a Speaker of any legislative body? Or is it to maintain his party’s advantage in the chamber? Give me a Pate “accomplishment” or a Ryan (either Illinois or the nationa one)?

    As for super liberals who bemoan him, I suppose yhey woild rather Daniels was still Speaker? He has moved very progressive legislation… ask any of the progressive Reps.

  43. - low level - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:38 pm:

    now for conservatives… funny the how the SAME PEOPLE who want TERM LIMITS are the very same that now think there is something fishy that she decided to RETIRE!

  44. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:46 pm:

    I feel the same way

  45. - Paul S. - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 4:57 pm:

    With the 2020 maps done and JB in office I think Madigan will be done.

  46. - justacitizen - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 7:31 pm:

    ===He simply did not want to retire because he loves working and is afraid to retire because he is afraid of the unknown. I think he is afraid of not having a purpose or a job to go to. I don’t think it has anything to do with money or power.===

    He’s got his law practice. Teach a course; write a book. All would be lucrative. Not buying the not having a purpose theory.

  47. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 9:22 pm:

    If Lisa Madigan wants to run for public office again.. her future is bright in Illinois. She is popular. She is in sync with how many people in Illinois view politics. She is way more popular than her father statewide. Anyone who thinks her last name is a negative is wrong. She’s established herself by her record as AG.

  48. - Fedup Dem - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 11:33 pm:

    Lisa Madigan was not very qualified when she won for Attorney General in 2002, but she grew into the office and did a decent job. She was not an amazing AG but she was a good AG. No major scandals is a high achievement for Illinois politicians. She did some decent consumer stuff.

    Speaker Madigan is a great politician (probably the best politician and certainly the most tenacious, disciplined and longest lasting. Arguably, Ed Vrdolyak and Jeremiah Joyce were smarter but neither was as disciplined nor as patient–although maybe they are happier making huge money than as elected officials and both tapped out at the highest offices they could achieve. Jerry Joyce was going to run for Mayor in the 80s as a Republican against Harold Washington and Ed Vrdolyak ruined his career at higher office (higher than alderman). I would even say that Ed Vrdolyak and Jerry Joyce are smarter than the Speaker but the Speaker is more disciplined and certainly and obviously longer lasting) if not the greatest politician. But he has no real legacy besides gaining and maintaing power and the gaining and maintaing power is the only legacy and no real vision or goals nor policy (besides general IL Dem policy and transactional stuff for lobbyists and money people–and stuff for Labor Unions and Trial Lawyers) and power is the end of itself.

    Speaker Madigan also deserves some (but not all as that is a long list since Governor Thompson and Democrats and Republicans that are responsible) of the blame for the economic crisis, debt, pension debt, not paying pension obligations, bad bond rating etc. It is not all the Speaker’s fault but he is at fault in part and has some of the blame and certainly has not resolved the systemic problems and issues in this state.

  49. - Mr B. - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 11:34 pm:


    I view her name as a negative. And I usually vote Dem. I am not alone here.

  50. - Fedup Dem - Tuesday, Sep 19, 17 @ 11:35 pm:

    Lisa Madigan would be a better governor than most of the other people running now. People might not want a Madigan as Speaker and a Madigan as Governor, but Lisa Madigan might be more independent than people think and one of the few people who can be independent. I am not supporting her nor am I uncritically supportive of her, but Lisa Madigan is as good a choice for governor as anyone else is and better than most.

  51. - cc - Wednesday, Sep 20, 17 @ 12:43 am:

    I wish she would run against Dick Durban. Time to get a someone younger, smarter and with a will to do something for Illinois

  52. - Huh? - Wednesday, Sep 20, 17 @ 6:51 am:

    Why does this story come across as a clone of 1.4%’s “all Madigan wants is power” story?

  53. - Lincoln Lad - Wednesday, Sep 20, 17 @ 8:50 am:

    The back story, if there is one, is not foretold by interviews from years ago. We can wait and see what if any materializes.

    Lisa can move to the private sector and make a lot of money. She can take care of her family, and should she choose to, come back into the fray if she chooses….

  54. - it'smyopinion - Wednesday, Sep 20, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    I find this Madigan ruined Lisa’s life story so bizarre. He has his job. She has hers. He is obviously an independent person of her, and she is certainly a grown, intelligent woman. He still wanted to work in that role. He had that right. Nothing should have been given to her. And I didn’t hear her ever say it should have. Hypothetically if f I had ever come to the factory where my dad worked and said, hey, move over (no way that would have happened - much too hard of work), he would have laughed at me AND said no because he had goals, a retirement plan he was building and things he still wanted to prove he could do. The Speaker must have felt the same. He wasn’t finished with his work as Speaker yet, and no one, including his daughter, should expect he just steps aside to be nice. To me that’s a ridiculous expectation. Now seeing that he said out loud her career was a top priority for him, we can all sit around and wonder if her being Governor would have been this great thing for her. But I don’t think solving our current problems have looked like that much fun. She’s been amazing and appreciated in her role as AG.

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