Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Happened to the Madigan Boys?

i walked into elga jefferies office yesterday. instead of bustling activity conjuring a competitive campaign, i found a relaxed atmosphere with no sense of the looming deadline and more of a fixation with thursday's special session.

but the first thing that occurred to me was, what happened to the "madigan boys?"

this question is not an outgrowth of my conversation with jefferies' campaign manager, someone sent in by the speaker of the house and head of the illinois democratic party. that was merely the latest datapoint for the question. on saturday and sunday, i ran into other madigan workers, and they didn't leave me particularly impressed.

one reason why i am disappointed with the madigan workers i'm finding out in the streets and in campaign offices is because they have an image of being the smartest, brightest political operatives in the state. to wit, the campaign of brendan reilly was probably the smartest, best campaign in 2007 -- and it was stacked with "madigan boys." madigan's speaker's office staff remains top choice.

but it's been madigan's ability to control the streets, especially in chicago and cook county, that has kept him as top dog in the illinois democratic kennel. it's starting to look like that time has passed.

after talking to several of the people michael madigan has assigned to various campaigns in the chicagoland area, i have to wonder. many of the recent advances in voter contact don't appear to have been incorporated into the madigan system. despite assurances from a madigan boy this summer that they are making things like voter history (or pattern) available to their canvassers, i found no evidence of that this weekend. the voter contact sheets from madigan didn't look any different than they had in the past. one canvasser i talked to on sunday actually complained because he had spent the last hour or so knocking on republican's doors. nothing demoralizes volunteers like wasting their time.

more to the point, the system touted by the madigan boys over at the capitol fax blog in 2005 -- knock on ~90 doors an hour, distribute ~16 signs and find ~1 volunteer (i don't recall precisely, but i found them to be outrageous numbers when i heard them; i could not find a copy of the original capitol fax post that included this comment) -- wasn't in evidence. canvassers i observed had normal walk patterns, seemed a little confused by the terrain (they were from the city, it seemed, and this was the south suburbs) and had to walk a distance between doors. rather, they fit into the metrics from get out the vote. and at least one of the campaign signs for the madigan-supported candidate seemed to be placed there without the home owner's permission (well, maybe; it's always possible the upset home owner hadn't discussed this with her spouse).

these observations come from seeing madigan workers helping the campaigns of al riley, jefferies as well as others, from all over the chicagoland region. clearly, this is not all they bring. madigan has promised his challenged house members that he would double up the number of mailings that they did. so far, in the 38th house district, we've received two mailings from citizens for al riley (the education and the health care piece) while we got one mailing from friends of michael madigan (the predator piece). one campaign i've talked to only plans on sending out one piece on their own, to be doubled up by a madigan piece. that doesn't seem like a winning strategy.

in the past, madigan has also dumped money into state house races. at this point, i haven't seen evidence of that. but it does seem like the battle between the speaker and the governor has worn on madigan as well as blagojevich. in the 38th, while al riley is being supported by the speaker, his opponent, toni ashmore, is being supported by the governor. i wonder how many voters here, if they understood this, would have mixed feelings, as my family does. a pox on both your houses, as it were...

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