Madigan set to become longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history

Austin Berg

Senior Writer

Austin Berg
January 11, 2017

Madigan set to become longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history

Chicago Democrat Mike Madigan will hold the speakership for a record 17th time.

Illinois House Democrats re-elected state Rep. Mike Madigan to his longtime post as House speaker Jan. 11.

Madigan is now set to become the longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history. By the end of his two-year term in 2019, no American will have held a legislative leadership position for longer.

Madigan won the speakership Wednesday on a 66-51 vote along party lines. All Republicans voted for Burr Ridge state Rep. Jim Durkin. A lone Democrat, Scott Drury of Highwood, voted present. This is the first time a House Democrat has voted “present” for the speaker in 30 years.

The remaining House Democrats cast their votes for Madigan: state Reps. Carol Ammons, Jaime Andrade Jr., Luis Arroyo, Daniel Beiser, Daniel Burke, Kelly Burke, Kelly Cassidy, Linda Chapa LaVia, Deb Conroy, Melissa Conyears, Jerry Costello II, Fred Crespo, Barbara Flynn Currie, John D’Amico, William Davis, Anthony DeLuca, Marcus Evans Jr., Sara Feigenholtz, Laura Fine, Mary Flowers, La Shawn Ford, Robyn Gabel, Jehan Gordon-Booth, LaToya Greenwood, Will Guzzardi, Michael Halpin, Sonya Harper, Gregory Harris, Elizabeth Hernandez, Jay Hoffman, Frances Ann Hurley, Thaddeus Jones, Stephanie Kifowit, Lou Lang, Camille Lilly, Theresa Mah, Natalie Manley, Robert Martwick, Rita Mayfield, Emily McAsey, Christian Mitchell, Anna Moeller, Martin J. Moylan, Michelle Mussman, Elaine Nekritz, Brandon Phelps, Al Riley, Robert Rita, Sue Scherer, Carol Sente, Elgie R. Sims Jr., Justin Slaughter, Cynthia Soto, Juliana Stratton, Katie Stuart, Silvana Tabares, André Thapedi, Arthur Turner, Litesa Wallace, Lawrence Walsh Jr., Emanuel Chris Welch, Ann Williams, Kathleen Willis, Sam Yingling and Michael J. Zalewski.

Madigan voted for himself.

This is the 17th time he has been elected speaker. He has held the post for 32 of the last 34 years, beginning in 1983.

The votes for Madigan are at once stunning and unsurprising.

Illinoisans have a right to be flabbergasted that Madigan drew near-unanimous support from House Democrats, while nearly two-thirds of registered voters in Illinois disapprove of the speaker, according to polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Despite drawing the state’s legislative map, he’s fresh off a loss of his supermajority in the House, losing four Democrat seats on net.

But Madigan’s re-election seemed inevitable, as not a single sitting House Democrat has ever voted for someone other than Madigan for the speakership (setting aside the 1995 vote, when Republicans controlled the chamber.)

The fear of bucking the speaker’s wishes is warranted. He is the most powerful politician in Illinois. And no other state in the country grants as much power to its House speaker as Illinois does Madigan.

If a Democratic House member doesn’t vote for Madigan, he can take away her campaign money, strip her of any leadership roles and even make sure none of her bills get a hearing.

If House Democrats wanted leadership change, one brave lawmaker is all it would take. Madigan and Durkin were the only House members nominated for the speakership.

Lawmakers have faced unprecedented pressure to justify their vote for the speaker in 2017, as Illinoisans are stuck navigating the highest property taxes in the nation and the worst jobs climate in the Midwest. Many people have responded by leaving – Illinois is also home to the worst out-migration crisis in the country.

Instead of addressing to this suffering by changing the guard, House Democrats re-elected a Cook County property tax lawyer to the most powerful post in the General Assembly.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!