Candidate for governor Chris Kennedy took aim at Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday, saying the powerful Democrat's job as a property tax appeals attorney conflicts with his political role.
"I don't think what (Madigan) does is illegal, I just think it should be illegal," Kennedy, of Kenilworth, said during a breakfast forum for Democratic candidates Wednesday in Mount Prospect.
"I don't think you should be an elected officials and have that conflict of interest. He should not have an outside job that is adverse to the interests of the body he was elected to serve," said Kennedy, son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston joined in the attack, saying Madigan "has been there too long. He's too powerful.
The power he has has held the state back and it's held the Democratic Party back and I think as Democratic candidates for governor, we ought to all say that." Biss noted he'd promoted unsuccessful legislation to limit speaker terms to 10 years.
Along with Biss and Kennedy, Madison County Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, Chicago activist Tio Hardiman, Long Grove engineer Alexander Paterakis and Chicago billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, are seeking to defeat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker follows a "personal code of ethics to prevent any use of his public office to benefit himself or his law firm or the clients of the law firm. He has always recused himself on bills related to property taxes."
Pritzker, speaking about Madigan at the forum, said "there are things I'll probably agree with and things I'll disagree with the speaker on," citing independently generated legislative district maps and term limits as changes he supports that Madigan would not.
"When I go to Springfield I'll work with the speaker to do the things I think are right for the people of Illinois, but I won't work for the speaker," he said.
Paterakis, 29, said Madigan had been speaker "longer than I've been alive." He faulted Rauner for "in the past 30 years being the only (governor) who has not worked with Mike Madigan well. You need someone else to say 'Here's a new plan, a new approach.' That's how you work true leadership."
Madigan has been speaker for all but two years since 1983.
Hardiman said he's worked with Madigan in the past. "I may not agree with everything he's put forward but he's there ... he's been voted in time and time again." Hardiman said Madigan gave Democratic former Gov. Pat Quinn "a hard time," and added, "I've been a peacemaker and bridge-builder my entire career."
Daiber called governing "an art that needs collaboration and compromise. The No. 1 thing you need to establish is trust and if the speaker doesn't trust (a governor) or the people around him don't trust (a governor) or the lobbyists -- you'll get nothing done. It's better to go in with an open mind."
In his remarks, Kennedy said the former Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, was assessed at $600 million less than its $1.2 billion mortgage. Brown said he was "not aware" of Madigan's law firm representing the tower's owners. "I think Mr. Kennedy is ill-informed," Brown said.
The forum was sponsored by the Daily Herald and Daily Herald Business Ledger.