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AG Madigan likely heading for private practice, views differ on legacy

Madison County Record

Wednesday, September 27, 2017  |  Article  |  by John Breslin

Attorney General (6) , Candidates--Statewide (12) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will likely go into private law practice after announcing she is not running again for the post, according to political analysts in the state.

After 16 years on the job, Madigan announced last week she will not stand for re-election again, a move that has led to some speculation over a next move, and talk of her legacy.

Most reports state she will not run for another political post. Views on her legacy are mixed.

There are those who believe she has carried the bag for her father by failing to lead any corruption investigations, then some who argue she has done a solid job as attorney general.

Chris Robling, a Republican political analyst, is not one who believes she has done a good job overall.

"I think she will be understood for the rest of her term to have been placed in this job by her father," said Robling. She is the daughter of Michael Madigan, long time speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

"It is time for her to grow up," Robling told the Record. "I just think this was kind of a sinecure for her. I do not think she was distinguishable as an attorney general and does not really have anything to point to." 

Robling added: "She did a perfectly harmless job, using the office for pet projects and responding to none of the official corruption raised. And she was not leading the fight against gang violence."

Madigan has been praised for her consumer activist actions.

"That is fine, that is the responsibility of her office, and I am glad she did it," said Robling. "But anybody looking back knows she has been a cork on the ocean."  

Robling predicts she will not run for another office. It is too late to run for governor and he does not believe she is interested in running for the senate.

"She enjoys living in Chicago, traveling around the state but getting home at night," Robling said. He noted her children are now in high school, which he thinks will motivate her future career decisions.

"She's got a very decent chance at a very nice paying law practice and be able to court a lot of clients. Former attorney generals can make a decent living as counselors to big companies."

Robling wanted to make the point that he thinks of Madigan personally in the highest terms, someone he knows and has got along with over the years.

"She is very decent," he said, "but always is seen as having been a political appendage of her Dad."

Robling added, "She did not do anything very significant, and she looked the other way when it came to official corruption."

Jak Tichenor, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute of Southern Illinois University, believes Madigan has done a solid job as attorney general.

"I think she will be regarded as a good, effective attorney general," Tichenor told the Record

"Just take her record in terms of civil litigation and working with other states to get a large amount of money back for consumers and tax payers," he said. 

Tichenor cited, as one example, her pursuit of for profit colleges after some were accused of charging students huge fees for sometimes little return. 

And Tichenor remembers clearly how Madigan approached the methamphetamine epidemic in the earlier years of her tenure. Madigan and her staff really stood up to that challenge very quickly, he said.

He said she won the trust of law enforcement, nailed how and where the drug was coming into the state, and introduced ways to block "mom and pop" operators using over the counter ingredients. She also helped set up a registry to counter the sale of ingredients such as cold medicine.

When asked about the claimed failure to tackle corruption against state officials and representatives, Tichenor cited the example of Rod Blagojevich. She initiated the investigation, which was later taken over by federal law enforcement, he said.

Tichenor added, "That is an easy thing for critics to get at her and her family. It is the one that a lot of people take a run at, but the Blagojevich investigation is the one I am most familiar with." 

"Overall it has been a pretty solid record," Tichenor said

On her resignation announcement, Tichenor said, "I was not that surprised. After her time as a state senator, it is roughly 20 years of her life in public service." 

She is now 51, Tichenor said, while also noting her kids are getting ready for high school.

On her future, Tichenor said, "Private law practice - that's pretty much what the speculation has been, safe assumption."

In public comments since announcing she was not running again, Madigan made clear she was not going to sit on the bench.

Madigan told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board: “Be a judge? That’s not me. They sit. I can’t sit all day.”

Among those hoping to replace her, Erika Harold is the likely Republican nominee. That may change now Madigan is not running as the GOP may want a bigger name, believing it has a  shot at winning the race for attorney general.

Harold, a Harvard law graduate and former Miss America, believes party leaders’ still support her nomination. Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin has endorsed her.

“I feel very good about my prospects to win the nomination and to win the general (election), because I will have a message focused on the issues that are important to me,” Harold said in a statement issued last week. “Issues of criminal justice reform, issues of having an independent attorney general’s office, and so that will remain unchanged regardless of who’s in the race.”

State Rep. Scott Drury, who had been running for governor, now says he is dropping that bid and will run as a Democrat for attorney general.