For months, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, brushed aside the notion that it would be a conflict of interest if she served as governor while he continued to run the General Assembly.
But on Monday, she ended the rampant political speculation by announcing she'll skip a run for governor and seek re-election, noting that her choice was largely due to the inherent conflict of concentrating too much power over state government in the hands of one family.
"I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case," Lisa Madigan said in a statement. "With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor."
The decision to seek a fourth term as the state's chief legal officer came as questions grew louder about Lisa Madigan's ability to separate herself from the political baggage of her father, who doubles as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.
In recent days, Speaker Madigan was criticized for allegedly attempting to clout a raise for a political friend who had worked for Metra and requesting that another person be hired at the region's commuter rail agency. That led unhappy Metra board members, fearful for the agency's budget, to dump CEO Alex Clifford and offer a settlement of up to $718,000.
Weeks before that, the speaker refused to attend a meeting of Democratic legislative leaders called by Quinn after the General Assembly's failure to fix the state's massively unfunded public employee pension system. Critics said the move bordered on arrogance, even as questions continued about Quinn's leadership abilities.
Those issues made certain that any candidacy for governor by Lisa Madigan would have been an all-out campaign against Michael Madigan — something the longest-serving House speaker in Illinois has never faced on such a high-profile stage.
The attorney general's decision leaves Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn with one announced primary election challenger: Bill Daley, a former White House chief of staff and son and brother to former Chicago mayors. Daley had been showing some deference to a decision from Lisa Madigan by waiting to announce whether he would move forward with a bid for governor, but he grew impatient and formed an exploratory committee last month.
"General Madigan's decision not to run now gives voters a clear choice between a proven leader who gets things done and a governor who can't seem to get anything done," said a statement from Daley's campaign. "Bill Daley looks forward to laying out a clear agenda to improve the lives of people across the state."
The Quinn campaign said Monday that the governor spent the day making jobs announcements.
"There will always be some on the sidelines who snipe," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement.
The governor has been criticized frequently by Daley and other Democrats for a lack of leadership skills and has seen his popularity remain low. But Quinn's move last week attempting to suspend lawmakers' salaries until they come up with a solution to the state's massive public employee pension debt may give him a populist resurgence.
While Quinn faces problems with Downstate voters, it is questionable whether the Daley name would fare better outside the Chicago metropolitan area. In the Chicago region, home of the bulk of the Democratic vote, Quinn still has support among African-American voters, which may be difficult for Daley to match.
On the Republican side, a four-way battle was firmed up Monday when state Sen. Kirk Dillard formally entered a primary race that already includes wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, 2010 governor nominee and state Sen. Bill Brady, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Four years ago, Lisa Madigan bypassed a bid for governor and said the prospect of her father remaining as speaker was not a factor in her decision and instead said it was due to "what was best for my family" and the state.
For some, there has been a conflict since Lisa Madigan was first elected attorney general in 2002 with Michael Madigan already speaker. While statewide voters have set aside the question three times, the issue continues to surface.
The state's chief lawyer has declined to publicly give an opinion on the constitutionality of her father's pension reform plan. She offered no statement on the constitutionality of Quinn's suspension of paychecks to legislators, including her father. And she sidestepped calls that she investigate Metra, saying it was subject to an inspector general's probe.
With her decision not to seek the governor's office, Lisa Madigan is the heavy favorite for re-election and still leaves the option for seeking higher office — a possible bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016 or a run for governor in 2018. She also could become a candidate for the state Supreme Court.
The development also stands to have a domino effect on several potential candidates for higher office in both parties.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon had announced she would not run for a second time with Quinn, ostensibly to make a bid for attorney general if the seat was open. Now Simon must look at either the treasurer's office Rutherford is vacating or mounting a challenge to Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, also had been considering a bid for attorney general. Raoul, who has been a Senate Democratic negotiator on major issues including pension changes and concealed carry legislation, appeared to rule out lower offices but left open the possibility of a run for governor.
"I had a pretty good fundraising quarter, and I think the work that I've done allows me the opportunity to reflect on my options," Raoul told the Tribune.
On the GOP side, an already contentious House Republican caucus may grow more raucous. House GOP leader Tom Cross of Oswego told colleagues he had planned to run for attorney general if the office was open. Now it's not. Cross has said he would remain as leader through the rest of his term, but a battle to replace him has been going on for weeks.