Democrat challenges Madigan for Illinois House speaker
After his implication in a bribery scandal and investigation by an Illinois House committee, Mike Madigan in January will face a Democratic challenger for House speaker. House candidates now need to say where they stand on Madigan.
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan will be challenged by state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, for the speakership in January.
Kifowit is one of the seven Democratic House members who asked for Madigan’s immediate resignation as speaker and chairman of the state’s Democratic Party after Madigan was implicated in a $1.3 million bribery scandal involving Commonwealth Edison. Fellow representatives are now investigating whether he should be disciplined for his actions.
In a statement, Kifowit wrote, “it is clear to me that he doesn’t hold the same values that I do and falls short of what the public expects from an elected official.”
“The actions described in the U.S. Attorney’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement by ComEd show that you have compromised the integrity of the office of Speaker of the House and undermined the public trust,” wrote Kifowit. “In addition, your involvement as ‘Public Official A’ exposes a conflict of interest as we deliberate and evaluate how the legislative process has been manipulated.”
Madigan has not been charged with any crimes and maintains his innocence. ComEd, on the other hand, agreed to pay a $200 million fine, admit to seeking Madigan’s help in passing legislation worth more than $150 million to the company and continue to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation into public corruption. The utility admitted to hiring or paying Madigan cronies to obtain his support for the legislation.
Kifowit is not facing a Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 election, setting the stage for an inauguration day battle when the new General Assembly is sworn in in January. Her run for speaker now forces House Democrats to make a choice between two members of their party. They can no longer claim voting for Madigan to be the safe alternative to voting for a Republican speaker.
Madigan is the longest serving speaker in American history. He first was elected speaker in 1983 and then again in 1997 after Republicans briefly controlled the House between 1995 and 1997.
Madigan has refused to testify before the special House investigative committee formed to see whether he took part in action unbecoming of a legislator. He called the proceedings a “political stunt” and said in a three-page letter to the committee that his job is to help Illinoisans, including with job recommendations.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker reiterated his desire Sept. 30 for Madigan to answer questions in the House investigation.
“I strongly believe that the speaker should take any opportunity – and this is one – to present answers to the questions that I think all of us have,” Pritzker said in a virtual press conference.
Madigan’s leadership is once again facing pressure from within his own party, but the chairman of the state party is also forcing Democrats to make a difficult choice. Madigan’s control over the party’s campaign funds helps him earn support from Democrats in contested elections. He recently transferred $3.25 million from his campaign committee to the state party. Candidates risk losing critical campaign money by dropping support for the speaker.
House Democrats also face questions from opponents and voters. A vote for Madigan no longer represents loyalty to the Democratic Party over a Republican speaker candidate. House candidates will need to take a stand on whether they back Madigan or are ready to oust the embattled speaker from his leadership role.