Mike Madigan

AGE: 69
OCCUPATION: Speaker, Illinois House

He doesn’t say much. But when the Velvet Hammer—a.k.a. the Real Governor of Illinois—speaks, his word is final. House speaker for 27 of the past 29 years and chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, his latest move is a bold congressional remapping designed to unseat four freshman Republicans. Rivals who try to knock him down soon learn their error. According to Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax blog: “The pile of political corpses outside Madigan’s Statehouse door . . . is a mile high and a mile wide.” Just ask Rod Blagojevich.

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Photograph: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune