November 15, 2009
BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist
WASHINGTON -- About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama's election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.
The Illinois primary is Feb. 2, and the Democrat and Republican races are ripening, with the deadlines to file or withdraw nominating petitions now passed.
Democratic Party leaders in Washington -- and the Obama White House -- failed to recruit a candidate strong enough to scare Rep. Mark Kirk -- the Republicans' best bet -- from the race. The only luck they had was the decision by Sen. Roland Burris -- appointed by now-indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama's remaining term -- not to run to keep the seat.
The chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois -- Michael J. Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House -- is the father of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who rebuffed Obama and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when they wooed her for the Senate. Papa Madigan, more concerned with keeping his state House majority, doesn't really care who the senator is.
A look at the leading Democratic and GOP Senate candidates: