Ill-Sen: Giannoulias Makes a Fundraising Splash
Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias staked his claim as the Democratic frontrunner in next year's Senate race by raising more than $1 million for his fledgling campaign in less than a month.
"I am flattered and humbled that we have been able to raise that much money especially in this climate in Illinois and this economy generally," said Giannoulias in an interview with the Fix earlier today.
Giannoulias opened his exploratory committee on March 3 having never before raised campaign money under federal limits. (Illinois law allows candidates for state office to raise money in unlimited sums.)
Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed to the office by now-indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is still undecided about whether to seek a full term in 2010 and has struggled mightily in his first months in office -- beset by a series of revelations regarding his relationship with the former governor.
Delmarie Cobb, a political adviser to Burris, said this afternoon that the Senator's campaign has not yet starting raising money for his potential reelection run but promised: "We will be soon."
Most neutral observers don't expect Burris to seek election in 2010, however, and, even if he does, he is not viewed as a serious contender for the post.
Giannoulias's fundraising total, which includes no personal money, is then rightly seen as a signal to the other major candidates reportedly mulling bids that he is already up and running and will not an easy opponent to beat.
The most likely opponent for Giannoulias remains former commerce secretary Bill Daley who, as of a few weeks ago, was telling close political advisers that he was all but in the race. The Daley momentum seems to have slowed somewhat, however, and a report in today's Chicago Sun-Times suggests he may well wind up as the Ambassador to China in the Obama administration.
State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is widely regarded as the quickest rising star in state Democratic politics, has been mentioned as a candidate for either Senate or governor in 2010 but has always seemed far more interested in the latter post -- a position she confirmed in an interview with the Sun-Times Lynn Sweet today. (If she does make a run at the state's top job, she would have to face off against Gov. Pat Quinn in a Democratic primary.)
Should Daley and Madigan both pass on the race, Giannoulias would be considered the favorite regardless of what Burris decides to do. He describes himself as an antidote to the "tainted and contaminated" political atmosphere in the state (a not so subtle dig at Burris and Blagojevich) and attributed his early fundraising success to the fact that Illinois voters are "hungry for someone who is going to bring some fresh ideas [and] innovative leadership to the process."
That's not to say Giannoulias's path to the Senate is without peril. At 33 and in statewide office for less than three years, he is open to charges that he is a politician of untethered ambition without the experience requisite to the office he is seeking. (Of course, the same was said about the man who currently occupies the White House.) Giannoulias could also be subject to questions surrounding the ties of his family-owned bank to people of ill repute -- a charge the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already made.
Couple Giannoulias's early fundraising with the organizational work he has done in the southern part of the state, the support he enjoys from Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and his strong ties to the labor community and it's not a leap to think he may well be emerging as the establishment pick in next year's Illinois race.
April 7, 2009; 3:26 PM ET
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