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Former Speaker Michael Madigan resigns state House seat

Chicago Sun Times

Thursday, February 18, 2021  |  Article  |  Rachel Hinton

Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

In a lengthy statement, Madigan took aim at the “vicious attacks” by people who “sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois.”

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced Thursday he will resign the seat he’s held for half a century at the end of the month.

 

In a lengthy statement, Madigan said it was an honor to “serve the people of Illinois as speaker of the House and state representative of the 22nd District” and took aim at the “vicious attacks” by people who “sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois.”

 

“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service,” Madigan said. “Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House.”

 

Madigan said he was “particularly proud” of the work of the House Democratic Caucus to increase the diversity of voices in the house to “include more women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.”

His resignation will kick off an appointment process that could see him personally pick his successor. As 13th Ward committeeperson in the Cook County Democratic Party, Madigan has the largest share of the weighted vote that will decide who replaces him in the House, meaning he could handpick his successor.

 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

 

“In my tenure as Illinois House speaker, we worked to elect representatives across all backgrounds and beliefs to truly represent the interests of the people of our state,” the statement continued. “I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”

 

Madigan’s reign as the longest-serving leader in state or federal government ended last month after he was unable to secure enough votes to continue as House speaker. Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Democrat from Hillside who is seen as a Madigan loyalist, ascended to the leadership position.

 

In a statement, Welch thanked Madigan for his “sincere and meaningful contributions to our state.”

 

“Under him, we’ve had strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield,” Welch said, highlighting some legislative accomplishments like legalizing same-sex marriage and abolishing the death penalty.

 

“Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion and cooperation expected by our constituents,” Welch’s statement continued. “I truly appreciate his contributions and I join Illinoisans across the state in wishing him well.”

 

Union presidents, who’ve been allied with Madigan, lauded his work. Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter called the former speaker a “steadfast, dedicated, and courageous champion of workers and their families in Illinois for a generation.”

 

Leaders of the Illinois AFL-CIO said Madigan “knew better than anyone that leading the Legislature means keenly understanding each legislative district and how best to support legislators representing their constituents back home and in Springfield.”

 

Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer, of Dixon, called Madigan’s resignation a “predictable sequel to the monumental change” in House leadership last month.

 

“I think that we’ve seen many of these changes brewing for the better part of the last year,” Demmer said. “I do think that the speaker’s resignation announcement tried to cherry-pick a few examples of things that he was a proud to be a part of, but I don’t think we could gloss over, though, the significant problems and issues that arose during his tenure as speaker, either. I think we need to weigh all those sides on balance.”

 

The deputy minority leader pointed to a “number of investigations of potentially illegal or unethical behavior, a real consolidation of too much power behind one person and, really, a legacy that prioritized political power over the good of the state of Illinois.”

 

The former speaker’s fall from leadership came after federal prosecutors accused leaders at utility giant ComEd of bribing associates of Madigan in exchange for his organization’s help in passing favorable legislation.

 

Those accusations, which were laid out in a July indictment, loosened Madigan’s grip on the speaker’s gavel and caused some legislators, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, to call for him to resign if the allegations were true.

 

Nineteen reps, some pointing to the ComEd allegations, said they would not vote for him to remain as speaker, effectively denying Madigan the votes needed to remain in power.

 

Madigan has not been charged with any crime and denies wrongdoing, but his confidant Michael McClain and three other members of his inner circle were indicted in November for an alleged bribery scheme designed to influence him.

 

A spokeswoman said Madigan will remain the chair of the state’s Democratic Party.