Illinois House speaker Michael Madi­gan

Patrick John Ryan is a 30-year-old Southwest-sider with a good-sounding Irish name who has filed as a Republican to run against the powerful Democrat and Illinois House speaker Michael Madi­gan this November. That much we know. We also know, according to public records, that Ryan has voted in every Democratic primary since 1998. What’s more, he hasn’t yet set up a registered political committee—a sure sign of any serious candidate—and hasn’t reported raising even one cent for his campaign. Last, he didn’t respond to the Tribune and Sun-Times candidate questionnaires, which the papers rely on to some degree in making their endorsements. 

Something odd is going on—again!

In the 2006 and 2008 general elections, Madigan’s opponent was Robert P. Famiglietti, a paper-tiger Republican with a history of voting Democratic. Before that, Madigan’s four-time opponent was Terrence Goggin, whom the Tribune called “a wholly owned subsidiary” of Madigan. Not surprisingly, Madigan crushed them both.

So what’s the deal here?

Newspapers have suggested that Madigan has a history of running against a pretend Republican who is put on the ballot by the speaker’s workers to give the appearance of a real competitive contest without actual competition. “It’s pathetic,” says Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “I don’t have evidence [Madigan] did it, but this is not something we haven’t seen before. It just shows he’s not willing to accept or tolerate legitimate opposition. Why take the risk when you can rig the game?”

So who is Patrick John Ryan?

“Nobody knows,” says Brady. “Maybe he’s the guy from Patriot Games,” he adds, confusing the candidate’s name with the name of author Tom Clancy’s fictional former marine, history professor, and CIA agent, John Patrick Ryan.

Like Madigan’s earlier virtually invisible opponents, the Republican Party has so far seen neither Ryan’s hide nor hair, only his paperwork. At the end of December 2009, the party put out a tongue-in-cheek missing persons report for him, to no avail. (Multiple calls to Ryan’s home—which doubles as his campaign headquarters, according to election records—were unreturned. A spokesman for Madigan says: “I never heard of the gentleman. I wouldn’t think anybody [in the speaker’s political organization] would spend time to put anyone on the ballot.”)

Brady says the party tried unsuccessfully to recruit a legitimate challenger to run against Madigan. “We tried to recruit a young Hispanic,” explains Brady, refusing to identify the potential candidate’s name but noting that Madigan’s district is largely Latino. “Let’s be realistic. Mike Madigan is a powerful guy, and a lot of people don’t want to go on a suicide mission.”


Photography: (Madigan) Chicago Tribune photo by Michael Tercha, (milk carton) ktphotog/