Auguest 29, 2012


Great Britain's Queen Victoria, a descendant of the House of Hanover, reigned over the British empire for 63 years, from 1837 to 1901.

Illinois' Mike Madigan, a product of the "House of the 13th Ward" on the Southwest Side, has reigned over the Illinois House as speaker for 28 of the past 30 years, and he has been a Democratic state representative for 42 years, beginning in 1970.

Madigan, age 70, is the most powerful politician in Springfield and the father of state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whom he seeks to elevate to the governorship in 2014 or 2018. His autocratic and tyrannical dominance of state government has made him hugely unpopular among political independents, but he could care less. He picks the Democratic candidates, he funds the candidates, after they win he tells them how to vote, and he is re-elected routinely in his House district.

It is said without mirth that there are three tiers in the Illinois House: the "Queen Bee" (Madigan), the perpetual bridesmaids -- Barbara Flynn Currie, Lou Lang and Tom Cross -- who are growing ancient and arthritic waiting for Madigan to vacate the altar so they can become speaker, and the chamber's 114 other members, who are just a bunch of irrelevant dwarfs.

In fact, the "dwarfs" are voting with their feet, stampeding to the exits. This year 19 incumbents have resigned or retired or are running for the Illinois Senate. "There's been a mass exodus," said state Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20), who was first elected in 1996. "I'm now 22nd in seniority. Every time I attend a session, there's new faces. There's no sense of continuity. It's no longer fun."

There will be at least 23 new representatives next year, elected from open or newly created seats. In 2011 four appointees were named to vacant seats, and in 2010 21 new members were elected. That's an astounding 41 percent turnover in just 2 years.

 "There's the matter of ethics," McAuliffe adds. "The media are always trying to find a mistake or a scandal, and Madigan controls the agenda." In essence, although McAuliffe was tactful, it is accurate to conclude that House members are mere puppets. A recent example was Governor Pat Quinn's so-called "pension reform" bill that came before the House in mid-August. The Democrats have a 64-54 House majority. Only 54 Democrats voted for it, and it lost. Quinn promptly -- and ludicrously -- blamed the Republicans. The blundering Quinn should have blamed Madigan, who didn't want to alienate the unions before the November election. If Madigan so decreed, the "reforms" would have passed.

Then there's the matter of the wannabe speakers. Currie, a Hyde Park liberal who was first elected in 1978 and is the Democrats' majority leader, has yearned to make history by being the first female speaker. Yet she's the same age (70) as Madigan. Lang, the House's preeminent advocate of gambling, is a Skokie liberal who was first elected in 1987, and he has repeatedly foregone statewide bids so he could stay in the speakership pipeline. At age 62, he can't wait much longer. Lang has more than $900,000 in his campaign account, and he surely will run for attorney general if Lisa Madigan goes for governor in 2014.

The common presumption is that Madigan will cling to the speakership for as long as it takes to ensure that Lisa Madigan is elected governor, and then he will stay on to make sure her (and his) legislative agenda is enacted. That means that Madigan could be speaker until 2018 or even 2022.

Of course, the solution to the "Madigan Mastery" is simple: Elect a House Republican majority and make Cross the speaker, as he was in 1995-96. Madigan's cartographers drew district maps designed to ensure a Democratic majority. Here's a look at districts where the Democrats are bumbling and stumbling. Incredibly, a net Republican gain of five or six seats -- and tie or a majority -- is possible.

98th District (Romeoville and Bolingbrook): The Democrats have their very own Todd Akin. In this suburban Democratic district, with a 20 to 30 percent minority population, Democrat Natalie Manley's campaign self-destructed when she was accused of a domestic assault on her daughter and an order of protection was issued. Not good. Madigan has been pressuring her to withdraw, but she won't. Republican Bob Kalnicky will win.

59th District (Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills): Incumbent Sid Mathias is that nearly extinct specimen -- a socially liberal Republican who votes fiscally conservative. Madigan remapped Mathias into a district with Democratic incumbent Carol Sente, but the speaker made a crucial error: He put all of Buffalo Grove, which had been divided between the two districts and where Mathias was the mayor for 8 years, into the new district. In the primary, Mathias had 5,112 votes to 3,947 for Sente. In 2010 Madigan spent $200,000 to elect Sente. This year Mathias is the anti-Madigan "independent" -- and he will win.

79th District (Kankakee, Bradley): Incumbent Democrat Lisa Dugan, who was first elected in 2004, won with just 51.4 percent of the vote in 2010 in a district carried by Bill Brady and Mark Kirk. She abruptly retired in 2012, and the Democrats scrambled for a candidate, settling on Kate Clooney, a teacher. The Republican candidate is Glenn Nixon, a Bourbonnais police officer. "(Clooney) is still disorganized," a Republican source said. Nixon wins.

55th District (Park Ridge, Des Plaines): Incumbent Rosemary Mulligan, a liberal, pro-choice Republican, had a lock on the district for 20 years, but she bungled her petitions for the March primary, got thrown off the ballot, and managed an embarrassing 46 write-in votes in the primary, to 2,229 votes for Susan Sweeney. Sweeney is a pro-life conservative whom Mulligan, the Maine Township Republican committeeman, has refused to endorse, and who should be unelectable in this upscale, independent-minded district.

However, the Democrats may have a flawed candidate in Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan. To be sure, Moylan can brag that he has been a conservative mayor, has said that he hasn't raised taxes or fees, and has been buoyed by the revenue stream from the new Rivers Casino, but Cross and his Republican operatives are poised to go nuclear on him, spend whatever it takes, and rip him for his involvement as a defendant in a city police brutality case and for selling for $1 million a parcel of property bought by the city for $9 million -- allegedly to a campaign donor.

"If Madigan wants to save Moylan, it will cost him $800,000," one area observer said. Moylan is a slight favorite.

58th District (north Lake County: Deerfield, Lake Forest, Highland Park): Democrat Karen May held this seat for six terms. This was "Obama Territory" in 2008 . . . but it is no longer. The Democratic candidate is attorney Scott Drury, who wanted to run for Lake County state's attorney in 2012 but who was downsized to this House race. There is still ill will between the party hierarchy, led by state Senator Terry Link, and Drury, and there is dissatisfaction -- anger toward Congress, Quinn, Madigan and incumbents in general. The Republican candidate is Mark Shaw. If Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Bob Dold (R-10) get 50 to 55 percent of the vote in the district, Shaw could squeak in. Drury is favored.

52nd District (Wauconda, Cary): Popular 15-year incumbent Mark Beaubien, a pro-choice Republican, died in 2011, and the Republicans nominated David McSweeney, a bombastic social and fiscal conservative who lost a 2006 congressional bid with 44 percent of the vote, in March. Beaubien's widow, Dee, decided to run as an "independent," but it has since been revealed that she has Madigan's field operation running her campaign.  "I accept help from anybody," she was quoted as saying. But Madigan isn't "anybody," and one can never be a "Madigan independent." If the race is Beaubien vs. McSweeney, he could lose; if it is framed as Madigan vs. McSweeney, the Republican wins.

46th District (Villa Park, Lombard, Elmhurst, Glendale Heights): Madigan designed this to be a Democratic-leaning seat in mid-DuPage County, but he may have caught a lemon in the candidacy of Deb Conroy, who faces Republican Dan Kordik. Conroy lost a 2010 House race to Dennis Reboletti by 4,488 votes (with 41.6 percent of the vote), and she then lost a re-election bid for the Elmhurst school board. She may be the only Democrat capable of blowing this seat. Kordik favored.

96th District (Decatur to Springfield): Another Madigan gem, designed to elect a Democrat. The speaker anointed Sue Scherer, poured in $100,000, and saw his money spent in a nasty, negative campaign in which Scherer topped Winston Taylor, who is black, by 69 votes. "There are a lot of Democrats who want her to lose," one operative said. The Republican candidate is businessman Dennis Shackelford. Expect a Shackelford upset.

44th District (Streamwood, Hoffman Estates): Republican-turned-Democrat Fred Crespo won this seat by 915 votes in 2006, by 11,979 votes in 2008 and by 1,435 votes in 2010. He's not safe. Madigan packed the district with Hispanics. The Republican candidate is Ramiro Juarez, a young Mexican-American teacher. Crespo will win in 2012, but a Hispanic will take the seat by the end of the decade.

111th District (suburban East Saint Louis, Alton, and rural areas): The Obama "drag" will cost incumbent Democrat Dan Beiser this seat. Beiser was unopposed in 2010, but he faces a tough 2012 foe in Cathy Smith in an area trending Republican. A Smith upset.

The Republicans will win the 46th, 58th, 79th, 96th, 98th and 111th districts. Madigan must defeat Mathias, Sweeney and McSweeney. How about a 59-59 tie?