A small army of Democrats is running in the March 20 primary for attorney general.
Illinois’ longtime Attorney General Lisa Madigan stunned members of the Democratic Party last year when she announced that, contrary to previous statements, she would not be running for a fifth term this year.
Indeed, her fellow politicos were so shocked that it took about 30 seconds for a small herd of them to announce they planned to seek the office Madigan is voluntarily vacating.
By the time everyone who wanted in the race got in, there were eight candidates. That’s what happens when officeholders, like Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White, get elected to one office and find themselves blocked in seeking another office (Madigan) or content and safe in staying where they are (White).
Ambitious politicos get antsy and angry, all lined up but with nowhere to go. So when opportunity knocked, they literally came running.
The Democratic candidates for attorney general are all Chicago-area lawyers of different degrees of repute. A few of them actually know their way around the courtroom. Others are politicos either trying to make a name for themselves or trying to remake a name for themselves.
They are former Gov. Pat Quinn, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, state Rep. Scott Drury, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, former Chicago Board of Education President Jesse Ruiz, public defender Aaron Goldstein and two former federal prosecutors, Sharon Fairley and Renato Mariotti.
On the basis of name recognition alone, Quinn would have to be considered a top-tier candidate. But his name recognition would cut both ways in the November general election. Democrats aren’t supposed to lose a statewide race in Illinois, but in 2014, Quinn lost his re-election race for governor to Republican Bruce Rauner.
Another top-tier candidate should be Raoul, the favored candidate of party bosses. They must think he can be trusted in this important office — one that can, but has not been, effective in the fight against corruption in Illinois.
The other candidates have varying credentials, some based on real ability and others based on unfulfilled ambition.
The best candidate in the race is party apostate Drury, who has committed the unpardonable sin of breaking politically and publicly with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Other candidates may pay lip service to politics-as-usual. But Drury is the only one who, in both word and deed, made it clear that he is a new type of Democrat trying to build a new type of Democratic Party in Illinois.
As a former federal prosecutor, Drury is clearly suited to hold the position he seeks. As a sincere reformer, the liberal Drury represents a beacon of hope for Democrats, as well as independents and Republicans who are as sick of Illinois’ corrupt and dysfunctional state government.
Being an ambitious Democrat in Illinois requires fealty to Michael Madigan in one way or another. All he asks is loyalty to doing things his way when he wants things to go his way. The cost to Illinois of his long, blinkered leadership has been high.
As a member of the Illinois House, Drury made it clear that, unlike his Democratic colleagues, Michael Madigan’s way wasn’t his way. For his disloyalty, he was banished from an effective role in that body.
He first thought of running for governor but switched to attorney general when Lisa Madigan stepped aside. It’s a position much better suited to his abilities at this stage of his political life, and he’s a candidate much better suited to meet the voters’ desires to have a new sheriff in town.
Michael Madigan & Co. are working hard to ensure Drury’s defeat in the primary election. They did their best to knock him off the ballot altogether through a frivolous objection. But Drury is on the ballot, and Democrats won’t go wrong in supporting him.
Illinois must change to survive. Business-as-usual is killing this state, and Drury is anything but business-as-usual.