Top Illinois Democrat missing from party’s big day at State Fair

August 14, 2013

(AP/File)

Illinois Democrats gathered in Springfield Wednesday to rally behind their candidates ahead of next year’s election--but they met amidst party infighting, lawsuits and without the state’s party chairman.

Michael Madigan serves as Speaker of the Statehouse and as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Yet Madigan did not appear at the state fair Wednesday, a day designed for political events.

Many Democratic officials seemed surprised - even unaware - that Madigan would not be attending the day’s events.

“I think the Democratic Party is pretty strong here in Illinois and the Speaker has done a very good job in leading the party, so whether he comes to the State Fair or not is not as important,” said Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton.

Meantime, Gov. Pat Quinn wouldn’t say much about Madigan’s notable absence.

“I don’t know why he’s not here, but I talked to him this week and I think he’s fired up, ready to go for 2014,” Quinn said.

A spokesman for Madigan did not return calls for comment.

The governor was recently sued by Madigan and Cullerton for withholding lawmakers paychecks. Quinn said the action was a consequence of legislators’ failure to address the state’s unfunded pension liability--Madigan and Cullerton called the maneuver unconstitutional.  

Meantime, Quinn’s primary opponent, Bill Daley, told a room full of Democrats that Quinn doesn’t have what it takes to win another election next year.

“We will not win if we do not make change,” Daley said in his prepared remarks to the party Wednesday morning.

For his part, Quinn didn’t criticize Daley by name, but hinted at upcoming attacks against Daley for his work in the financial sector at JPMorgan Chase.

“We had a recession, the Great Recession,” Quinn said. “There were a lot of millionaire bankers and big shots that caused great harm to the American economy.”

Republicans are scheduled to have their own day of rallies and attacks on Democrats at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday.