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Need something to read? Dive into these books on Illinois politics

Tuesday, Apr 2, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller


Winchester-area native and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Ray Long’s in-depth work The House That Madigan Built moves to paperback after a successful two-year run in hard back for the University of Illinois Press. The book is a lengthy view of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s 36 years as House Speaker, and 38-year leadership of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Long’s career of covering the Capitol in Springfield coincided with Madigan’s rise to power.

Long says it was important to have the full picture of Madigan’s time in Springfield from beginning to end: “I feel pretty good about the book going to paperback. I thought that it was an important book to write because a lot of people have not followed Madigan closely but they have kind of a gut reaction about him, most often times its negative, especially in recent years. The book lays it out, I believe, on the things that he did that either drew a lot of praise or scrutiny. There were things that he did that got him in trouble. He used the power of politics to push his agenda and pushed his personal political power. The book largely covers the time that he was a legislative leader, which happened to be in 1981 and that also happened to be the first year that I covered Springfield.”

Long says he watched all of the highs and lows of Madigan’s career and tried to portray it objectively and let people make their own conclusions.


A new book by Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt offers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into Lightfoot’s tumultuous time in office that ultimately led to her failed bid for reelection.

“It’s fundamentally an inability to have political relationships and to work with people who you don’t like,” Pratt said. “It’s adapt or die, and she was a prosecutor and she couldn’t get out of that mindset.”

Pratt’s book “The City is Up for Grabs: How Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Led and Lost a City in Crisis” will be released April 2.

* Here’s an excerpt

Click here to read another excerpt.

* Axios

Pratt hoped to talk to Lightfoot for the book, though “by the time 2022 came around, it was clear she was in her bunker and she was not coming out.”

“I was hoping that she would come around, because we’d always had good conversations even about difficult subjects. But by the end, she came to believe that everyone was against her.”

Pratt’s big takeaway? Leaders “have to be open to new ideas and understand soft power in addition to hard power … and be willing to make mistakes,” Pratt says.

“You can’t take things personal, and if you do, you can’t show that to the world at every moment and say ’screw you, poor me.’”


“I think that, when we look back, we’re going to see one of the most critical four years in the history of Chicago,” he told WBBM. “I thought it was important to document it in detail so that people could understand what exactly happened — where we went wrong and where we went right — and we can take some lessons for future generations.”

Pratt described Lightfoot as “an unsuccessful mayor who did a lot of good things but also screwed up a lot of problems.”

“You don’t get rejected by 85% of your voters because you did a great job,” he said.

Lightfoot became the first openly gay Black woman to serve as mayor not only of Chicago, but of any major U.S. city, after she defeated Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the 2019 mayoral election.

* WBEZ spoke with Patrick Wohl about his new book

Long before there was Bush v. Gore and the “dimpled chad” fiasco in Florida, there was Penny Pullen and Rosemary Mulligan, two suburban Chicago Republicans vying for the same statehouse seat in a race so close, it was decided at points by a handful of votes, a coin toss and eventually the Illinois Supreme Court.

Reset dives into a new book examining the significance of that race, the way it changed how we count votes today and why every vote counts.

* More from the Tribune

[Patrick] Wohl, a Park Ridge native and 2012 graduate of Maine South High School, grew up hearing about the 1990 Republican primary for state representative, in which Penny Pullen and Rosemary Mulligan battled for the nomination in one of the closest races in Illinois history. The local election became a proxy fight on the question of legalized abortion, drawing national interest and money into the district.

“Growing up, it was this legendary story that people talked about,” he said. “You know, back in the day, this race was so close that they flipped a coin. I had no idea that it had gained all this national attention or had anything to do with abortion before I started going back to research it.”

The more he dove into the race — the coin flip was, in fact, true — the more he was drawn into the story. Four years later, the election is the subject of his first book: “Down Ballot: How a Local Campaign Became a National Referendum on Abortion.” […]

“When you look at the polls in Illinois now, it’s easy to forget that this was such a contentious issue 30 years ago,” Wohl said. “It was a 50-50 issue. You had Catholic Democrats who opposed abortion. Black Democrats opposed it, based on faith. You also had a lot of suburban Republicans who were supportive of abortion rights. This was a Republican primary, and it was an issue that split the party.”


  1. - RIP 2Pac - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 12:55 pm:

    Pratt’s book is full of great insights. I am halfway through it and am surprised at how many of the same mistakes MLL made MBJ is repeating. I hope the current mayor and his team read it and quickly course correct.

  2. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 1:03 pm:

    Excited to read both–been behind in my reading so I hadn’t gotten to Long’s yet.

  3. - Amalia - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 1:29 pm:

    great post, Isabel. I keep seeing adverts for the two books so I’m connecting them in my mind and you produced a great post on it here. shopping….

  4. - low level - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 2:15 pm:

    I’ve always said beware the reformers - the ones that always talk about how “reform” they are. They never live up to their own rhetoric and are largely incompetent. MLL shows that. BJ making the same errors.

  5. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 2:52 pm:

    Just went on Amazon for Down Ballot hardcover out of stock at $110.00. i like hardcover but will take paperback for $19.00

  6. - Gravitas - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 3:05 pm:

    Ahem. There was some complacency in Pullen’s campaign office. As a long term incumbent that thought that their candidate had the upper hand.

    After surviving the lengthy recount, Pullen was defeated by Mulligan two years later.

    Mulligan had her own reelect problems years later.

  7. - low level - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 3:33 pm:

    Highly recommend Ray Long’s book on Madigan. I know many ex staffers didnt care for it but I thought it was very fair. His chapter on June 30, 1988 (White Sox stadium bill) alone was worth getting the book.

  8. - levivotedforjudy - Tuesday, Apr 2, 24 @ 3:43 pm:

    I want to read both the Madigan and Lightfoot books, but had an idea (that will never happen). During a future mayoral debate, cite one of the situations Lightfoot dealt with and ask the candidate what they would have done and why. I know, I know. it will never happen, but it would be great insight on how they think. Glad Lightfoot isn’t my mayor anymore and can’t wait for the current one to join her.

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