Pritzker, other top Democrats want Madigan out as party leader

Pritzker, other top Democrats want Madigan out as party leader

On the heels of losing his signature “fair tax,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants House Speaker Mike Madigan out as the state Democratic leader. Both U.S. senators also make that call.

Illinois’ three highest-ranking Democrats are calling on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to resign as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois after Election Day losses were tied to his implication in a bribery scandal.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked Nov. 5 if the state party needed new leadership and replied “yes.”

Illinois’ senior U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin came down hard on Madigan in a post-election interview. Durbin said Madigan’s presence as the party’s leader is a liability.

“All across our state – and the advertising told the story – we paid a heavy price for the Speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party,” Durbin said on WTTW-TV. “I hope he takes that to heart and understands that his presence as chairman of our party has not helped.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said it’s time for Madigan to step down both as party chair and House speaker.

“The ongoing investigation surrounding Speaker Madigan is an unnecessary distraction and makes it harder to carry out the work of helping the people of Illinois,” Duckworth told The State Journal-Register.

“As our nation hopefully embarks on a brighter path with a new president, the Illinois Democratic Party and the Illinois House of Representatives should consider new leadership to continue the progress we’ve made at the state level and build on it.”

Madigan said he’s not going anywhere.

Durbin said the campaign against Democrats in this year’s election was successful because opponents hammered on Madigan’s trouble with the law when attacking Democratic candidates.

The Democratic Party did not perform as well in Illinois as many expected. Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment was soundly rejected despite his personally putting $58 million into the campaign because voters were concerned about the new power it would grant Madigan’s legislature to levy new taxes. Republicans gained two seats in the Illinois House despite being vastly outspent. Voters rejected Democratic state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride for retention after he took $550,000 from Madigan despite pledging he would not.

Madigan was implicated in federal bribery charges in July, with ComEd admitting it paid more than $1.3 million to Madigan political cronies to gain the speaker’s favor on legislation. Soon after, Democrats throughout Illinois began calling for Madigan to resign his leadership posts, but Pritzker initially said the resignation should come only if the allegations were proven. Fifty-three Democrats signed a letter in August calling for Madigan to resign his positions. Ten General Assembly Democrats also called for Madigan to step aside.

Madigan will face a challenge to his 35 years as speaker when the new General Assembly begins in January. State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, has committed to running for speaker, forcing Democrats to make a choice between loyalty to Madigan or a fresh face.

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