Thursday evening, the Illinois Republican Party is hosting a fundraising event for Patrick John Ryan, the challenger to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
One might imagine the state's Republican establishment getting excited at the prospect of taking down the all-powerful Speaker. In a year with ticket-topping Republicans running well in Illinois, and a nationwide movement energizing the right, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a movement coalescing around Ryan.
If anyone could find him.
Patrick John Ryan has officially raised zero dollars in his bid to unseat Madigan. He has not started a political committee. He did not respond to surveys from the Sun-Times or Tribune about his positions. He does not have a website. His campaign headquarters is his parents' home, where he apparently lives. The one fact that public records verify about him: Ryan has voted in the Democratic primary every year before this one.
Instead of a viable challenger to the leader of a desperately unpopular House, Ryan appears to be the latest in a series of Madigan-picked patsy opponents, chosen to provide token opposition to the Speaker.
For many years, the role of paper tiger was held by Terrence Goggin, another long-time Democratic voter who got on the ballot as a Republican, then politely refused to run a campaign. Goggin, unsurprisingly, lost four consecutive landslide elections to Madigan; in 2002, the Tribune wrote that "Goggin has long been a wholly owned subsidiary" of the Madigan empire.
His successor in '06 and '08, as Chicago Magazine reported earlier this year, was Robert Famiglietti, yet another faux-Republican who also did not campaign. Now, P.J. Ryan has taken up the standard.
In a noble attempt to learn more about the candidate, Tribune columnist John Kass went to his home address--where not even a yard sign could be found--only to have a pleasant chat with his parents. Unsurprisingly, Ryan returned no phone calls from the press.
A Democratic pol warned me that my search would be futile. "Now that you're looking for this Ryan kid, Mike will have him buried in some office and you'll never see him," he said.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady--who, it must be said, has failed to mount a serious opponent for Madigan--has seized on the opportunity for a snarky send-up of the Speaker.
The website PatrickJohnRyan.com now directs to a PDF download of a flyer for tonight's fundraiser. It invites readers to a fundraiser for Patrick John Ryan, "Republican" Candidate for State Representative District 22.
"We applaud Mr. Ryan for taking on such an enormous challenge of trying to unseat Speaker Madigan, and we want to show our support," said Chairman Brady in a statement. "He's definitely got the intestinal fortitude we look for in our Republican challengers. I'd just like to meet him."
According to Chicago Mag, Brady tried to recruit a Latino candidate for the district, the population of which has become increasingly Hispanic in Madigan's 30 years in office. But no one took him up on the offer.
"Let's be realistic," Brady said. "Mike Madigan is a powerful guy, and a lot of people don't want to go on a suicide mission."