Over the last half century it’s hard to find two most powerful names in Illinois than Madigan and Daley. The families go way back together. Both are Southside Irish. Both are politically ambitious and phenomenally successful. But both have watched each other with wary eyes as the years went on. Including right now as Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, the State’s most popular politician and daughter of the all-powerful House Speaker debates a run for governor. And Bill Daley, the son of the man who built Chicago-style politics known the world over, may also run.
Each is waiting for the other to make the next move, but there’s no room for both, which, is pretty much how the two families saw each other from the start. Mike Madigan’s dad and Mayor Richard J. Daley carved up political territory on the south and southwest sides of Chicago. Don Rose, a long-time political operative says back in the fifties the families, “established their little fiefdoms and their dukedoms.” Rose adds that at the same time, “They knew that Richard J would be calling the shots.”
Soon after Chicago’s infamous 1968 Democratic convention, historians say Mayor Daley gave his son Rich and Mike Madigan their political starts. The talk around town was that the boss saw in Madigan a bright, mature, young mind. He didn’t necessarily think the same of his own son Richie who was a little rough around the edges. Rose says, “Richie was an egomaniac and he thought being son of boss he would run things.” As the story goes, Mayor Daley sent the boys to the Illinois State Constitution asking young Madigan to watch over young Rich Daley. It might have been there where they first wanted to take a bit out of each other. Rose says he wouldn’t call it seriously bad blood, but, “there were jealousies and let’s say significant disrespect.”
Madigan and Daley carried the family political torches in different ways, but both ended up in Springfield where Daley learned some hard lessons – dubbed dirty little Richie by some of his colleagues. Today, Speaker Mike Madigan says of Daley, “He had the cover of his father, but had some difficulty because he was the son of the father and you have to give him credit he worked through that very, very well.”
Daley did do well, but that came later, much, much, later. First, a young Richie had to come to terms with the death of his larger than life father. Some predicted an end to the Daley legacy. Near his last days in office Daley reflected that there were times he was intimidated trying to live up to the Daley name, “Oh sure when my father died. I mean people were-very- oh- that’s the end of the Daley family. Rich Daley, this and that. They were pretty tough on me.”
So while Madigan flourished in Springfield, Daley left the Capitol after eight years to run for Cook County State’s Attorney. But, the Daley name no longer commanded street cred. Madigan supported Daley’s opponent. Political analyst Paul Green said, “This isn’t family feud. This is high powered politics with tremendous political and economic implications. There was no great rivalry, they basically have different realms. Speaker Madigan was very content to stay in Springfield and obviously Rich Daley wanted to get back to Chicago.”
The separation of the Daley’s and Madigan’s was never so obvious than when Rich decided to take a shot at Dad’s old seat, city hall. Mike Madigan backed Jane Byrne. Rich Daley said he’d never forget this. Attorney and local political columnist Russ Stewart said, “When the southwest side was supposed to be backing Rich Daley against Jane Byrne and Harold Washington, Madigan’s 13th ward went 46% for Jane Byrne and I don’t think the Mayor ever forgot about that particular factor. That was disloyalty on Madigan’s part to Daley.”
Which brings us back to today and whose interest will take center stage? Pundits, bloggers, and politicians are all speculating, will it be a battle between two powerful families – the Madigan’s and the Daleys? Rose says, “You certainly have Mike advocating for whatever his daughter wants and opposing anybody who stands in the way. He has the power to do it. And I think one of the things that Bill Daley has gone back and forth about himself. Does he want to take on this kind of battle and he knows it will be a battle because at present Mike holds more political cards than any of the Daley’s.” While Green thinks they work it out. Oh and let’s not forget a key factor, a big factor, the current Governor Pat Quinn has already tossed his hat in the ring which, leads to more speculation from Stewart, “In a one on one, Lisa Madigan wins. If Daley runs against Quinn on a one on one Daley wins. It’s only a three-way race that’s winnable for Quinn.” The bets are on.