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Birkett says he can't beat Madigan, bows out of attorney general race
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff

Joseph Birkett


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Published: 8/6/2009 2:47 PM | Updated: 8/6/2009 5:59 PM

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DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett dropped out of his second bid for Illinois Attorney General Thursday, citing an "unwinnable" race against incumbent Lisa Madigan.

Birkett said he was surprised when Madigan decided to run for a third term and not seek a higher post a week after he declared his candidacy for attorney general on July 2.

"I was one of those people who thought the tea leaves were pointed elsewhere," Birkett told the Daily Herald.

Up until Thursday, Birkett stood by his decision to run despite facing a rematch against Madigan, daughter of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan and a powerful Democratic politician in her own right. But, Birkett said, further examination proved to him he couldn't beat her.

"I've taken a reality check," he said. "I've assessed all the relevant factors."

Topping the list was money.

Birkett has long admitted he has difficulty raising campaign cash. He lost to Madigan in 2002 and lost a lieutenant governor bid in 2006 on the same ticket with governor hopeful Judy Baar Topinka, then state treasurer.

Madigan had nearly $4 million in the bank at the end of June with the potential to raise millions of dollars more. Birkett, who had been floating his name for statewide office for months, had $84,248.

As for the future, Birkett is in the middle of his fourth term as state's attorney. He is said to be interested in an appellate court position, and on Thursday he didn't speak highly of another statewide run.

"I'm not going to rule anything out, but right now I'm just going to focus on doing my job," he said.

The Republican field for governor is already crowded with two other top DuPage County GOPers - county board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom of Naperville and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.

As for the GOP race for attorney general, it remains unclear if a strong contender will step into the void created by Birkett's exit. Nominating petitions are due in by early November.