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TODAY

Thursday, December 12

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Airbags

You don't hear much about the State Treasurer, really, until the 10 o'clock news runs a story about unclaimed property being returned to Illinois residents. Especially here in Chicago, we are much more familiar with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, to whom you cut your property tax checks. And when you receive a check from the state, it is usually signed by Dan Hynes, the state comptroller, who controls the accounts receivable and payable. But the race for state treasurer this year will have some considerable implications not only policy-wise, but politically, too. First off, what does the state treasurer do?

Well, at the risk of sounding policy-wonkish, the treasurer effectuates the intent of the General Assembly with regards to revenues generated and monies controlled by the state of Illinois. OK, the Treasurer makes sure Illinois isn't stuffing its cash into a mattress. Or think of it this way: a mediocre Treasurer takes the revenues generated and assets controlled by the state and makes sure they are invested wisely while also remaining protected; a good Treasurer comes up with policies that will both safeguard and increase the money the state controls, while at the same time leveraging that money to bring benefits to all of the state's taxpayers and pensioners. A bad Treasurer will invest the money in Clydesdales and rare coins.

On the Democratic side, House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan, father of the current attorney general, coaxed the state party's Central Committee into slating Paul Mangieri, a state's attorney from Knox County, in Western Illinois. Mangieri is an accomplished individual in his own right and has good campaign experience, but the idea was to get a "downstate" candidate to balance the ticket, which will currently be headed by Rod Blagojevich, Jesse White, Dan Hynes, Pat Quinn and Lisa Madigan, all native Chicagoans. Mangieri turned some heads with comments he made in the last few months, including touting his somewhat socially conservative ideology (he opposes abortion, but feels it is a privacy issue government should stay out of). He also made somewhat bizarre comments about his own "courage" and "conviction," in announcing for the office before incumbent Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka announced for governor, implying that others who had expressed interest in the office (including State Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago) lacked such traits.

A few days ago Alexi Giannoulias, a 29-year-old banker from a wealthy banking family, announced for the office and was immediately endorsed by Senator Barack Obama, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Alderman Dick Mell (D-33rd Ward) and Rep. Fritchey. Several in the media interpreted this as a poke in the eye of Illinois' regular Democratic establishment, especially as this is Senator Obama's first public foray into Illinois' internal politics. Giannoulias was an early financial backer of Obama's U.S. Senate campaign, his family directly contributing over $10,000. Obama, Fritchey and Jackson all expressed the opinion that Giannoulias would represent good policy in Springfield, and be a good step towards eliminating "inside baseball" in the capitol. Importantly, the Governor recently expressed his own backing of Mangieri.

The forces that line up opposite each other in that contest, and the subsequent winner, will say a lot about the nature and structure of the Democratic Party of Illinois, which under the steady and brilliant helmsmanship of Speaker Madigan has been slowly sailing towards complete dominance over the last two decades.

On the other side of the aisle, Christine Radogno, a moderate Republican state Senator from south suburban Lemont, has more or less declared for the office and is unopposed — so far. Say what you will about the Illinois GOP, they have succeeded in keeping the primaries for down-ticket races clear to allow them to focus on the abbatoir that is their gubernatorial primary.

Unfortunately for Radogno, Republicans haven't been faring very well over the last few decades, and no matter what Mangieri and Giannoulias do to each other in the primaries, it probably wouldn't generate enough heat to effect them in the general elections: few enough people pay attention to the primaries for governor in an off year, much less for treasurer.

Now we see the Democrats, just over the last few years finalizing their dominance, undergoing an important realignment that may center around a coterie of progressive Chicago-based politicians and the more traditional body of the Cook County and state apparatuses. The slating of Mangieri may be a reaction to such a possible future realignment; the question remains, will this be transformed (by the media or otherwise) into jousting between factions, or will Giannoulias and Mangieri really be allowed to innovate and debate the issues, and let the best man win?

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Comments

waleeta / December 7, 2005 8:38 AM

Invest in rare coins - didn't Ohio do that? Ha!

matty / December 7, 2005 10:21 AM

Would anyone be interested in diagraming the relations of Illinois Democratic politicians with me?

The motto "don't send me nobody who nobody sent" still runs deep in the old boy club.

Maybe we could make it all nice an easy to read and put it on this site. You know, just as an fyi.

 

About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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