Embattled Michael Madigan has resigned from another powerful position he held, stepping down as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. The former Illinois House Speaker had led the state’s party for the past 23 years.
In that time, Democrats saw huge gains in power, particularly in winning super-majorities in the House and Senate in Springfield, picking up seats in Chicago’s suburbs. But Democrats encountered some surprising losses at the ballot box in November’s elections.
“Together, we faced conservative extremism and stood up for working men and women,” Madigan said in a statement. “I’m confident the Democratic Party of Illinois will continue to cement our place as a beacon of progressive values.”
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough will serve as interim chair of the state party.
Madigan also recently resigned his seat in the state House of Representatives after Democrats refused to re-elect Madigan and handed the gavel to Emanuel “Chris” Welch instead. Madigan’s been ensnared in a sprawling federal corruption probe conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.
Last year, Commonwealth Edison admitted it embarked on a years-long scheme to bribe Madigan by hiring and contracting associates of the former speaker in exchange for favorable legislation. Michael McClain, a top ComEd lobbyist who was a confidante and advisor of Madigan’s, has been charged for his role in the scheme. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Madigan denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight that the state party “paid a heavy price” for Madigan’s leadership of the party in November’s election.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride lost his bid for retention, Gov. JB Pritzker’s attempt to amend the constitution to tax wealthy people at a higher percentage than others failed, and even though they retained a supermajority, Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives.
Durbin has also asked President Joe Biden to keep U.S. Attorney John Lausch in his position until his successor is chosen “to conclude sensitive investigations.” In a statement Monday, Durbin remained optimistic that Lausch would stay in his role.
“Sen. Duckworth and I continue to present our case to the White House that the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois should be allowed to continue until his successor is chosen,” Durbin, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a statement Monday. “I am hopeful that will end positively. I hope we will know soon.”
Madigan’s resignation as party chair is effective immediately, though he remains in his position as a state central committeeman, a term that expires next year.
Members of the Democratic State Central Committee will select Madigan’s replacement in the next 30 days.
Late Monday evening, Gov. JB Pritzker and Duckworth both threw their support behind Chicago Alderman Michelle Harris, 8th Ward. Harris has been an alderman since 2006, and was recently named Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader.
Durbin in a statement Monday evening stumped for Congresswoman Robin Kelly, 2nd District. Kelly previously served in the Illinois House, and Durbin said her experience and skill sets made her a great candidate.
“I cannot think of a better person to lead Democrats moving forward in Illinois,” the statement read in part.
Durbin appeared to hedge his bets, however, saying he also knew Harris, a “proven leader,” and added that whoever is chair, “our party will be in good hands.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.