* Let’s start with the Politico story, which is pretty good…
Gov. J.B. Pritzker made his move to have greater control of the party by joining with Sen. Tammy Duckworth to endorse Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris.
Harris is seen as a strong candidate because she’s worked behind the scenes in Democratic circles. Harris served in the Cook County Democratic Party on committees handling recruitment, pre-slating and other appointments. Harris’ challenge could be that her career is focused on Chicago and Cook County politics, but Pritzker knows that to win statewide elections, northern Illinois is where the votes are.
“The next leader of the Democratic Party of Illinois must continue the progress we’ve made by supporting Democratic candidates who will help working families at the local, state and federal levels equally,” Pritzker and Duckworth said in a joint statement, adding they believe Harris “is best qualified” to do that.
Loyalty could matter, too. Harris was an early backer of Pritzker’s run for governor, and her daughter works for Duckworth.
Another big name in play is Rep. Robin Kelly, who tweeted her interest in the job and is endorsed by Sen. Dick Durbin and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez. Kelly’s challenge is that she would have to split her time between D.C. and Illinois, so she likely would lean on Durbin’s downstate aide, Bill Houlihan.
In a statement, Durbin praised Harris as “a proven leader” but endorsed Kelly, noting she lived 20 years in Peoria and was a statewide candidate when she ran unsuccessfully for Illinois treasurer. “Her experience in Congress, the state legislature, and managing an Illinois constitutional office afford her a breadth of important experience and skill sets,” he said, adding he “can’t think of a better person” to lead the party.
While Kelly could be a good fundraiser for the party — which was Madigan’s strength — it’s Pritzker’s wealth that is likely to fuel the organization in the coming years. And if that’s the case, he’d want his own candidate in the top position.
Latino activists are pushing state Sen. Cristina Castro for party chairman. She is a member of the Democratic Central Committee. Still, other candidates could emerge in the next 30 days when an appointment must be made. In the meantime, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough will serve as interim chair.
Durbin and Houlihan have had their eyes on the state party for a very long time. And while it’s true that Pritzker’s wealth would be a boon to the party’s finances, and that in most normal states the governor is the party’s titular head (and that’s also true here with Republican governors), what happens after he leaves?
Here are some other questions I’m still trying to find answers for: Why would the state’s senior US Senator go up against his party’s governor and his state’s junior US Senator in a battle over control of the state Democratic Party? And how far will Durbin and Pritzker push this? And what happens if Pritzker loses yet another political fight? And where’s the mayor in all of this?
* Rep. Robin Kelly Launches Bid to Replace Madigan as Head of Illinois Democratic Party
* Embattled former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan steps down as state Democratic Party chair
* Madigan Resigns From Democratic Party Chairmanship
* Ex-House speaker Michael Madigan quits Democratic Party post
* Madigan Resigns as State Democratic Party Chairman
* Mike Madigan resigns as Illinois Democratic Party Chairman