Madigan leadership team member becomes 19th vote opposing him as House speaker

Madigan leadership team member becomes 19th vote opposing him as House speaker

Enough Illinois House Democrats already said they would vote to end Mike Madigan’s 35 years as speaker but losing a party leader will make it much more difficult for him to retain power.

Mike Madigan is now at least six votes shy of what he would need for another term as Illinois House speaker, but the latest Democratic House member to vow her opposition leads the party’s caucus.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, wrote Dec. 1 that she would not vote for Madigan as speaker when the 102nd Illinois General Assembly convenes in January.

“As the House Democratic Caucus Chair, this decision was not made lightly. I feel strongly that our caucus has a lot of hard work to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session and we need to put the distraction that has been created by Representative Madigan behind us and move forward in mending the State of Illinois,” Willis wrote.

She said the House needs to focus on ethics reform, COVID-19, health care, systemic racism and protecting services for the state’s most vulnerable.

Willis makes the 19th House Democrat refusing to back Madigan as a result of his implication in a $1.3 million bribery scandal involving Commonwealth Edison. ComEd’s prosecution agreement brought out an initial group of representatives, but indictments issued Nov. 18 cost him the additional votes needed to prevent him from reaching the required 60 votes out of 73 House Democrats. Accounting for every representative who has publicly stated they will oppose Madigan’s speakership, he is now six votes shy of the minimum for a new term.

State Reps. Jonathan Carroll, Sam Yingling, Will Guzzardi, Daniel Didech, Eva Dina-Delgado and representative-elect Margaret Croke added their names to the list of those wanting Madigan to quit and allow someone else to lead the House after Madigan’s confidant and three others were recently indicted.

State Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Terra Costa Howard, Maurice West, Bob Morgan, Anne Stava-Murray, Stephanie Kifowit and Lindsey LaPointe previously said they would not re-elect Madigan, with Kifowit announcing she would challenge him for the speakership. State Reps. Deb Conroy, Robyn Gabel, Anna Moeller and Ann Williams sent Madigan a letter asking for new blood.

ComEd admitted to federal prosecutors that it paid more than $1.3 million to Madigan’s cronies, handing no-work jobs to some and allowing him to name people to positions from meter reader on up. The bribes were intended to curry Madigan’s support for legislation worth $150 million to the electric utility. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators.

Federal agents are also looking at similar arrangements with AT&T, Rush University Medical Center and Walgreens.

Madigan has denied wrongdoing, and said he considers helping constituents find jobs to be part of his public service.

When House members return to Springfield in January for the new legislative session, they may reject Madigan, but they will still face the set of rules that have allowed him to maintain power for 35 years. A new face will not mean a new era unless those House rules are changed.

For true reform, the legislative redistricting process should be taken out of the hands of lawmakers. Reforms are also needed to the House Rules, and lawmakers should strengthen ethics rules to mandate transparency and hold lawmakers accountable for their conflicts of interest. Representatives should free the legislative inspector general to investigate and publicize wrongdoing without hindrance from lawmakers.

A Madigan by any other name will still leave the Illinois House vulnerable to one-person rule – and the corruption that comes with it.

Watch the full-length documentary, “Madigan: Power, Privilege, Politics” produced by Illinois Policy in 2016, which explores Madigan’s rise to power and how he became the longest-serving House speaker in US history. 

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