Democratic candidate for Illinois governor Scott Drury announced Tuesday that he has instead decided to run for attorney general.
A state representative and former federal prosecutor from north suburban Highwood, Drury is withdrawing from the campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, and instead became the first Democrat to officially enter the race for attorney general.
“Based on my history, both as a prosecutor and as a state representative, of fighting against corrupt public officials and fighting against powerful interests, I believe that I am uniquely in a position to earn the public’s trust and have the public’s trust on day one,” Drury said at a news conference announcing his decision.
Drury has served in the General Assembly since 2013, and in that time has painted himself as an anti-establishment candidate, often breaking ranks with members of his own party, voting against stopgap budget measures during the state's two-year impasse, a tax on millionaires in 2014, as well as the school funding formula overhaul that was signed into law last month, among others.
“I used to joke when I first got to Springfield and my friends would always say to me when I came back home, they would say, ‘Is it as corrupt as we think it is?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know because this is the scene: I walk into a room, everyone’s talking and laughing and like the record scratches and they all stop talking,’” he said Tuesday, adding, “It’s amazing though, if they just know someone’s watching, the impact you can have.”
He has often vocally asserted his opposition to powerful Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan - who is also the father of incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Earlier this year, he was the sole Democrat who did not vote for Mike Madigan to retain the leadership position he has held for more than 30 years.
Drury’s announcement came just four days after Lisa Madigan revealed that she would not seek a fifth term in office, sending shockwaves through the state’s political circles.
Her decision prompted Drury’s supporters to urge him to enter the race, he said, adding that he had never seen them so excited.
“Almost immediately upon hearing the news that Lisa Madigan would not be running for reelection, my phone began buzzing,” Drury said at a news conference Tuesday. “People were asking me if I would consider running. They said to me that they hoped that I would run and they said almost universally that what Illinois needs is an attorney general who’s fiercely independent, an attorney general who has experience as a prosecutor, someone who they know is going to stand up against the state’s most powerful interests. I agree.”
Drury praised Lisa Madigan’s efforts in representing the state in civil matters, but said her office has not fought enough against powerful interests “in a state that is historically known for its public corruption.”
“When I am the attorney general, no one, and I mean no one, will be above and beyond the law,” he said. “I will go where the evidence leads, whether it’s the doorsteps of the big banks and the corporations, or whether its room 200 or 300 of the state Capitol, the offices of the governor and the offices of the Illinois speaker of the House.”
Drury even went so far as to suggest that the timing of Lisa Madigan’s decision was politically motivated.
“I believe that Lisa got out of the race so late because there was a concerted attempt to not have people who can get into the race,” he said. “It’s not easy to run statewide so there’s only going to be a few people who are really in a position to run this race. I happen to be the one person who’s already in the position. They probably didn’t anticipate that when they came up with this plan in a dark room months or years ago.”
Lisa Madigan has not given a specific reason for her decision or its timing. She has also remained quiet on her plans for the future and despite rampant speculation, has said she will not immediately seek another public office.
At least a dozen names have been floated in discussions of who might run for the coveted position she has held since 2003.
“We will see who enters the fight,” Drury said of potential opponents. “Every day there’s a new person coming, a new person going. I’m in.”
The only other declared candidate is Republican Erika Harold, an attorney and former Miss America who ran for Congress downstate in 2013 and announced her intent to take on Lisa Madigan last month.
On the Democratic side, several other lawmakers, like Drury’s fellow state Reps. Elaine Nekritz and Ann Williams, are considering a run, as well as state Sens. Kwame Raoul, Michael Hastings and Ira Silverstein.
They join a wide field of potential candidates that is expected to thin quickly, as they will have to make their decisions in time to fundraise, circulate nominating petitions and campaign statewide ahead of the primary on March 20.