Could this be the election year in which the GOP's portrayal of Mike Madigan as the corrupt manipulator of Democratic state reps — mere marionettes who dance on strings — actually pays off?
The Southwest Side power broker is again the target of a Republican bid to tie him to the candidacies of every House Democrat in the November election, according to a report from IllinoisWatchdog.org.
A recent $100,000 union donation to Madigan and the House's failure to act on pension reform in the General Assembly is being cited as evidence of a suspicious scratching of the back on the Speaker's part.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, offered this take to a reporter for IllinoisWatchdog.org:
“What this is, is Republicans in Illinois saying that a vote for a Democrat in the Illinois House is a vote for Mike Madigan. ...
“This is not a new tactic. What’s new here is the environment and the antipathy toward Springfield and the problems that exist. People in Illinois do know who Mike Madigan is. Maybe this is the year that (the tactic) works."
Recent history shows Madigan can be beat.
Kelly Burke, the Evergreen Park woman who represents the 36th House District, sent Madigan's candidate packing in the 2010 Democratic primary. The two-term library board member prevailed despite the formidable arsenal of Madigan campaign workers toiling on behalf of her opponent, which included female ghost candidates with Irish surnames, efforts to smear her on her property tax payments and threats to get her law license revoked for being a tax cheat.
Such Machiavellian political moves from the Madigan camp often come into play in House races in the south suburbs and beyond.
Elsewhere in the Southland that year, Madigan's street army circulated petitions for Molly McAvoy Flynn — a Republican — to get her on the ballot and make sure Tinley Park's Jeff Junkas spent a lot of time and money before facing off in the general election against the Democratic incumbent, Madigan's House man Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park). McCarthy ultimately squeaked to a win on a 4 percentage point margin.
The Republicans' goal this year is to persuade voters to liken all Democrats to Madigan, whom they portray as the ultimate corrupt politician. With four decades in the House — and three as Speaker — there's a long record of gamesmanship to reference.
There are many uncontested races in the Illinois House this year, but there are enough races at stake that Republican victories could tip the balance of power in the House — now at 63 Democrats and 54 Republicans — and wrest the Speaker's gavel from Madigan's hand.
Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman, offered this view on GOP tactics to IllinoisWatchdog.org:
“They’ve done this for 25 years, and it’s gotten them nowhere. There’s no real change. Two years ago, they rented out billboards on the Tri-State tollway against Madigan. They were pretty expensive."
"I have never heard of a voter saying, ‘I’m going to change my vote because of money somebody got.’ It just doesn’t work that way. Votes for the Legislature are about local candidates and local issues.”