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Madigan quits as state Democratic chair

Crain's Chicago Business

Monday, February 22, 2021  |  Article  |  Greg Hinz

Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

Alderman, congresswoman reportedly mulling bids to take over as head of the party in Illinois.


Mike Madigan gave up his last statewide position of power Monday evening, stepping down as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois and setting off what looks to be a furious race to succeed him.


In a statement, Madigan, who was ousted as speaker of the Illinois House in January and quit his spot as a state representative last week, said the resignation as chairman will take effect immediately.

Madigan will be succeeded on an interim basis by the party’s first vice chair, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. According to the statement, the party’s 36-member central committee must meet within 30 days to select a new chairman.


Party insiders said two members of the committee have signaled they’re interested in seeking the job: U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson and Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th. Yarbrough reportedly is not interested in getting the job permanently.


One committee member I spoke with who asked not to be named said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is trying to drum up support for Harris. Interestingly, Harris recently became City Council floor leader for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, with whom Pritzker has jostled on occasion.


Kelly has her own advantages. She’s run statewide (for Illinois treasurer), served in the Illinois House and has national fund-raising connections from her position in the U.S. House.


A third committee member who had been interested in running, Cook County Board of Review member Mike Cabonargi, has ruled out a race, sources close to him say.


UPDATE: Kelly announced her candidacy for the post. "With democracy under siege, it's more important than ever that we have leaders of our party that can appeal to the broad sector of our electorate that represent all 102 counties of our state," she said in a statement. "The congressional district I represent is urban, suburban and rural which is a microcosm of the state and gives me a unique perspective and understanding to lead our party forward."


U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced his endorsement of Kelly, meaning Illinois' two U.S. senators differ on who should get the post. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has not tipped her hand.


In his resignation statement, Madigan claimed at least partial credit for lots of accomplishments, including making Barack Obama president.


“Over the last two decades, we have elected a diverse array of Democrats across Illinois and helped send a Chicago leader to the White House, turning Illinois into a Democratic stronghold,” Madigan said. “I’m confident the Democratic Party of Illinois will continue to cement our place as a beacon of progressive values.”


Madigan retains his post as 13th Ward Democratic committeeman, at least for now.


UPDATE— Pritzker is confirming he’s for Harris, and so is U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.


“As our nation moves on from the chaos of the Trump years and our state begins charting a brighter path forward under new legislative leadership, the next leader of the Democratic Party of Illinois must continue the progress we’ve made by supporting Democratic candidates who will help working families at the local, state and federal levels equally.“ the two said in a joint statement that was issued by Pritzker’s office and confirmed by a Duckworth spokesman. “We believe Ald. Michelle Harris is best qualified to lead our party forward in the years ahead and are hopeful the state Central Committee will select her to serve as the next party chair."