(MCT) — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Tuesday did little to ease months of speculation about whether she'll challenge Gov. Pat Quinn next year, saying she has yet to make up her mind and declining to say when that will happen.
Madigan's comments came as the list of candidates seeking to be the next governor continues to grow, with former White House chief of staff Bill Daley dipping his toes in the water by forming an exploratory committee and announcing campaign strategists. But if Madigan gets in, Daley could get out to avoid a three-way Democratic primary in which the anti-Quinn vote would be split.
Given the state's messy finances, Madigan also could run for a fourth term as the state's top lawyer.
"As I have long let the people of Illinois and the news media know, I am very seriously considering running for governor. That being said, my first priority continues to be serving as the state's attorney general," Madigan told reporters before being honored at a Rotary Club lunch. "I am pretty sure that the people of the state of Illinois are interested in results and are not as interested in the start of a new campaign."
Her potential run for governor has raised questions about a conflict of interest should her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, decide to keep his job. The attorney general called such questions "premature." She also dismissed as "absurd" the notion that a stalemate over pension reform was chaos by design to make Quinn look bad and boost her candidacy.
"It's June of 2013," Madigan said. "The next governor won't be sworn in until January 2015. If we haven't cleaned up and reformed the pension system by then, we have much greater problems. It is to nobody's benefit whatsoever for the pension crisis to continue in the state of Illinois."
While she sidestepped direct questions about her political future, Madigan's staff issued a statement calling Daley's foray into the race "an interesting move," pointing to polls they argued show Daley would not fare well in a primary.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would not say whether he'd back Daley for governor, noting their close relationship but saying the race is in the very early stages. Daley replaced Emanuel in the Obama White House after Emanuel left to run for the mayoral job held by brother Richard Daley.
Daley's ties to Obama were evident in the list of campaign members he released Tuesday. They include Roz Skozen, former Midwest finance director for Obama's 2012 campaign; Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist who oversaw direct mail efforts for Obama's 2008 race; and Larry Grisolano, a media consultant for AKPD Message and Media, a firm founded by former top Obama adviser David Axelrod.
On the Republican side, wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner became the first candidate to air TV ads, releasing two 30-second spots Tuesday in which he promises to grow jobs, fight corruption and lower the income tax.
As is typical for such ads, Rauner didn't say how he planned to accomplish those tasks. Spokesman Mike Schrimpf said that would include rolling back the 67 percent income tax rate increase signed into law by Quinn and replacing it with "tax reform that is fair to all citizens." Schrimpf said details would be rolled out over the course of the campaign.
The Rauner campaign declined to say how much it's spending or how long the ads will run.
Down the ballot, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Tribune he'll seek a third term instead of running for attorney general. Dart had been talked about as a Democratic candidate if incumbent Lisa Madigan ran for governor.
"I have multiple things on my plate right now I want to complete," said Dart, who also passed on a run for mayor in 2011. "I'm more driven by getting things done. I'll leave here when I've completed what I'm working on."
Work Dart said he plans to see through includes finding mental health treatment settings for more mentally ill jail detainees, putting human traffickers behind bars, getting guns out of the hands of people disqualified to have them under state law and helping underfunded suburbs fight crime and corruption.