Behind Closed Doors, Madigan Falls Short In First Vote For House Speaker

Michael Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, center, talks with staff members legislators in December 2016 in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Michael Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, center, talks with staff members legislators in December 2016 in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Behind Closed Doors, Madigan Falls Short In First Vote For House Speaker

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A deeply divided House Democratic caucus blocked embattled Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan from a record-setting 19th term on Sunday but didn’t settle on a successor, leaving control of the House majority he’s controlled for decades still very much in question.

Sunday’s closed-door roll call by House Democrats marked the first legislative test of Madigan’s dramatically weakened political standing after federal investigators placed a criminal bribery probe involving Commonwealth Edison at his doorstep.

In the first of a likely succession of votes in the coming days, Madigan squared off against two challengers. And while his vote total nearly tripled the next closest competitor, he still stood nine votes shy of the 60 necessary to elect a speaker.

After the vote, Madigan’s spokesman said the incumbent speaker is continuing to work to be reelected.

Multiple legislative sources confirmed Madigan drew 51 votes. State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, was second in the balloting with 18 votes, while state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, got three votes. Another declared candidate, state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, dropped out of the race and threw her support to Williams.

“Today’s vote makes clear the House Democratic Caucus is ready for a change in leadership,” Williams said in a statement.

But it’s noteworthy that as of Sunday night’s first vote for speaker, 22 Democrats did not vote for Madigan, who for decades has been described as Illinois’ most powerful politician.

The full House, including 45 Republicans, will vote for speaker on Wednesday when the new session of the General Assembly begins.

Another vote by House Democrats is slated for Monday.

Despite holding a plurality within his 73-member caucus, Madigan faced renewed opposition from a bloc of 19 House Democrats who had declared earlier they wouldn’t be voting for him. Heading into Sunday’s vote, the group reiterated its commitment to see someone else take over the House gavel.

“After meeting the past two days in Springfield, and having had the opportunity to participate in multiple candidate forums in the speaker’s election, our position has not changed,” the group said in a statement Sunday.

“We will not be supporting Michael J. Madigan for speaker of the Illinois House at any stage of the voting process. It is time for new Democratic leadership in the Illinois House,” the group said.

Two incoming House Democrats also voted against Madigan: Rep.-elect Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, and Rep.-elect Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, voted present

While Madigan hasn’t been charged, federal prosecutors have identified him repeatedly in court filings as “Public Official A” in the government’s probe of ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices between 2011 and 2019. The company admitted to showering Madigan precinct captains and other associates with no-work jobs and contracts to curry favor with the speaker to help advance its legislative agenda.

Madigan has denied knowing about ComEd’s efforts to bribe him.

The speaker’s entanglement in the ComEd case has prompted calls from Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth for Madigan to resign his post as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, with Duckworth also calling on Madigan to resign as speaker.

Madigan has been House speaker since 1983 for all but two years, establishing him as the longest-serving speaker in any statehouse or Congress in American history.

Separate from the closed-door meeting held by House Democrats, a dramatic scene played out on the makeshift floor of the House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, collapsed while another member delivered a speech. Bailey, who’s considering running for governor, was wheeled out on a stretcher and gave a thumbs up as he left the floor.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said Bailey had gastrointestinal issues and hadn’t eaten Sunday. He said Bailey hit his head when he collapsed.

“I know he’s gonna be fine,” Durkin said.

Meantime, it remains unclear what will come of perhaps the most significant legislation being debated during the next few days. Black lawmakers have put forward an ambitious agenda to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system, in addition to legislation meant to address inequities in health care, education and the economy.

But parts of the agenda have come up against stiff opposition — particularly the criminal justice component.

State Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, publicly expressed his frustration with the lack of support from organized labor during debate on an unrelated bill that had the support of the AFL-CIO.

“Is this the same AFL-CIO that came out and opposed the Black agenda, the criminal justice pillar?” Tarver asked.

“We don’t have the right to walk down the street,” Tarver continued. “We’ve not been extended that courtesy for them to support our bill while they give lip service and feign support to Black people.”

The bill was pulled before a vote could be taken.

In a statement, Tim Drea, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO which is an umbrella organization representing more than 1,500 labor unions, said the organization’s opposition is based on the proposal to attempt to limit a police union’s ability to bargain over discipline and grievances.

“We cannot let these well-intentioned efforts for civil rights reform turn back our decades of fighting for workers’ rights,” Drea said in a statement.

The AFL-CIO is also opposed to the idea of allowing anonymous complaints against police officers and allowing individual officers be susceptible to civil lawsuits.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, a west suburban Democrat introduced a measure that would ask political candidates to declare that they are not a part of a hate group.

State Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, is proposing adding language to the existing loyalty oath offered to anyone seeking public office stating that they are not a communist. Villa’s bill would ask candidates to state that they are also not a part of a hate group or a white supremacist organization.

“State elected officials from multiple states across the country participated in the insurrection at the Capitol this week. That’s unconscionable,” Villa said in a statement. “We have no choice but to ensure that white supremacists and insurrectionists cannot continue to run for office without making their hateful beliefs known to voters first.”

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.