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Madigan taps 13th Ward worker to succeed him in House — but vows appointee will ‘stand on his own merits’

Chicago Sun Times

Sunday, February 21, 2021  |  Article  |  Rachel Hinton

Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

Edward Guerra Kodatt, 26, has worked since 2017 as an infrastructure manager for Madigan’s handpicked 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn. Kodatt received 63% of the weighted vote needed to get the appointment.

Former state Rep. Michael Madigan passed the baton to a 13th Ward employee Sunday, appointing Edward Guerra Kodatt to fill the seat the former speaker held for half a century.

 

Kodatt received 63% of the weighted vote.

 

Madigan had the largest share of the weighted vote total at 56%; 18th Ward committeeperson and Ald. Derrick Curtis and Stickney committeeperson Vincent Cainkar, who gave his share of the weighted vote to Curtis, also voted to appoint Kodatt to the Illinois House’s 22nd District seat.

 

State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, who also serves as 14th Ward committeeperson, and Silvana Tabares, who represents the 23rd Ward as its alderman and committeeperson, nominated other candidates for the position. Ten people in all sought to replace Madigan.

 

Kodatt, 26, has worked as an infrastructure manager to Madigan’s handpicked 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn since July 2017. Data from Chicago list him as a staff assistant making $42,456 a year.

 

Asked how he would respond to people who may view Kodatt as tainted by his relationship to the former speaker, Madigan said the new representative will “stand on his own merits.”

 

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago, un servicio presentado por AARP Chicago.

 

“He spoke to his background, he spoke to his aspirations for service in the General Assembly, and I’m sure he’ll be judged on his actions,” Madigan said.

 

Along with Kodatt, Madigan and the other committee members heard from Ivan Barajas, Mary Ellen Brown, Anita Cummings, Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, Lisbeth Leanos, Bob Raica, Joel Rosales, Aldo Valencia and Silvia Villas.

 

Before each candidate spoke, the former speaker thanked the residents of the district, saying his motto during his 50 years in office was to “represent ordinary working people” on the Southwest Side.

 

During the process, Madigan, who chaired the proceedings, asked no questions, leaving that job to others on the selection committee. Committeepeople didn’t deliberate on their choices, nominating Kodatt, Villas and Guerrero-Cuellar on the spot rather than going into another room to talk it over.

 

Ald. Tabares, who asked the new representative tough questions during his presentation, said Kodatt will have to “reapply for his job to the people that matter, and those are our constituents.”

“The constituents, the residents, need to have a say,” Tabares said. “They’re the ones that really matter in this process, so he’s going to have to talk to them. He is accountable to them.”

 

Kodatt said being young will help him bring new ideas and perspectives to the role, and he’s “excited to get to work and make sure everyone in this neighborhood and district has those opportunities to do whatever it is that they want to do one day.”

 

He lauded Madigan and Quinn for being responsive to constituents, something he’s seen up close while working in the ward.

 

“I believe in an open, transparent process, and that’s what I think this was,” Kodatt said of the Sunday morning meeting. “I’m obviously new to the process myself so, you know, I can’t touch on [being a tainted candidate] too much being so new to it. But I think they did a good job of including everyone and being pretty transparent.”

 

Madigan resigned Thursday from the House seat he has held since 1971, and hours later he called Sunday’s meeting for committeepeople to pick his replacement.

 

Calls for an open process from progressive groups — and the other committeepeople who have a say in the appointment process — followed the announcement, with a coalition of groups issuing a list of demands, including that Madigan recuse himself.

 

That group, Coalition for Change IL3, said in a statement after the appointment Kodatt is “blissfully unqualified” for the position and, pointing to the lack of public deliberation, declared “Madigan’s fix was in.”

 

House members of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus said in a Friday statement “whoever goes before the appointment committee to be considered for the vacancy should recognize that they are seeking to represent the House district with the 3rd largest Latinx population in the State of Illinois out of the 118 districts.”

 

Kodatt, whose mother is from Ecuador, also speaks Spanish. His parents were on hand for his swearing in, which happened shortly after the committeepeople voted to appoint him.

 

The former speaker’s political free fall began last summer after federal prosecutors accused ComEd of bribing associates of Madigan’s in exchange for his help in passing legislation the utility wanted. Madigan has not been charged with any crime and denies wrongdoing.

 

Though Madigan is no longer speaker and is now out of office, he remains the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. He was tightlipped about his plans for that role, saying he’s “going to be an active Democrat” in whatever role that’s available to him.

 

“We haven’t gotten to that bridge yet,” Madigan said when asked if he would step down from leading the party.

 

Asked when he might cross that bridge, he responded, “I have no idea.”