Requested by Clyde S Dale
Rep. Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch took Madigan’s place as House speaker last month
After 50 years in the state legislature, Mike Madigan is finally calling it quits.
On Thursday, the legendary political figure sent a letter to the House speaker announcing that he will be resigning from the state representative post he has held since 1971. A second letter to the Clerk of the House tendered Madigan’s resignation, effective today.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois,” Madigan said in part. “The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”
He went on to say “I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”
His career began back in 1970 when he was first elected to represent Chicago’s Southwest Side. He has served as Speaker of the House for all but two years since 1983. But Madigan’s reign came to an end as the longest serving House speaker in U.S. history. Madigan served as speaker for all but two years since 1983. He was replaced in that position by Emanuel “Chris” Welch who became the first Black person in Illinois history to hold that position.
“I think we’re at a point where we’re changing the political history of the state of Illinois,” said Dick Simpson, political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Madigan was the last powerhouse still in power.”
Madigan is credited with many achievements in his career, including passing historic education reform, raising the minimum wage, abolishing the death penalty and passing the Marriage Equality Act.
His support crumbled under a federal corruption probe of ComEd where he was implicated, but not charged in a bribery and jobs scheme. Last month, when he realized he would not be able to garner the 60 votes needed to remain Speaker, he announced he would step aside.
In 2018 support for Madigan began to erode with the #MeToo movement when he faced sexual harassment issues with his staff and under his leadership.
Madigan’s career spanned nine Illinois governors and Chicago mayors and eight presidents. He is one of the last of the old-time political bosses, getting his start as a precinct captain under Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine.
The 78-year-old, who is also a property tax assessment attorney, remains the chairman of the state Democratic Party, where he still wields significant political power, with a political war chest.
His constituents generally said they thought he had done a good job in office.
“I think he’s done a lot for the community. I voted for him,” said Lindsay Koss, Garfield Park resident.
While political opponents highlight how he has contributed to the state’s debt, especially underfunded pensions, many residents of Madigan’s district are concerned about more tangible issues and the old school politician who takes care of his voters.
“He’s done all right by me,” said Mike Oziminski, Garfield Ridge resident.
After touring a Metro East COVID-19 vaccination site Thursday afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker said he wishes Madigan the best and lauded the state’s decision to vote Welch in as Illinois’ first Black speaker.
“When you serve as long and in as dedicated a fashion in terms of just his sheer, the number of hours the man put into the job, his family can really suffer; it’s a challenge,” Pritzker said. “I really just want to call them out today and say they really deserve kudos for the public service that former Speaker Madigan did.”
When asked about Madigan’s implications in the ComEd investigation, Pritzker said that’s “running its course.”
“The accusations that exist that are around things like that are not good,” Pritzker said. “I believe it’s our job to tell the truth, be honest, to do the right thing, to serve with integrity.”
Read Madigan’s full statement here:
“Today I am announcing that I will resign as state representative of the 22nd district at the end of the month. It has been my great honor to serve the people of Illinois as speaker of the House and state representative of the 22nd District. This journey would not have been possible without my wonderful wife, Shirley, and children, Lisa, Tiffany, Nicole and Andrew, who have stood by my side year after year, providing their love and support despite the pressure of growing up in the public spotlight. I am fortunate to have them in my life.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service. Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House.
“As speaker, legislator and member of the Illinois Constitutional Convention, I worked to make the General Assembly a co-equal branch of government, ensuring it acted as a check on the power of the governor and the executive branch, especially around a governor’s abuse of the amendatory veto. Many heated battles were fought to keep governors from rewriting legislation sent to them by the General Assembly.
“I am particularly proud of our work to increase the diversity of voices in the House Democratic Caucus to include more women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. In my tenure as Illinois House speaker, we worked to elect representatives across all backgrounds and beliefs to truly represent the interests of the people of our state.
“With the partnership of this diverse and talented group of Illinois Democrats and with our colleagues across the aisle, we were able to level the playing field and strengthen the middle class while workers in other states saw their wages diminished.
“We achieved school funding reform to increase investment for schools in need and address inequalities in our state’s education system. We made Illinois a welcoming state by passing the Illinois Dream Act and providing drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents.
“We strengthened the rights of workers, increased the minimum wage, expanded access to health care for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, and protected a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
“We upheld the rights of all Illinois residents by passing marriage equality, finally recognizing the rights of men and women to marry the people they love. We enacted criminal justice reforms to break down laws that too often target people of color and led the country in expanding voting rights as other states weakened them.
“Collaborating with leaders in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, health care and other industries, we built a partnership with job creators to encourage economic development and address crises in our unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems. We also expanded opportunities in the tourism and film industry, created the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that reinvented McCormick Place and Navy Pier, and established the Illinois Sports Facility Authority that kept the White Sox in Chicago.
“When were confronted with the Rauner administration and the interests of the wealthy, who sought to weaken unions and the labor movement in Illinois, we stood up for working people.
“Rauner went on to plunge our state into a budget crisis, nearly bankrupting social service agencies, eliminating funding for higher education, and racking up billions of dollars in state debt in the process. House Democrats stood as the last line of defense to protect our state from collapse.
“Under my leadership, we increased transparency of state and local government by creating the Freedom of Information Act and protecting it from attempts to water it down, impeached Rod Blagojevich and repeatedly strengthened the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.”
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”
“My achievements would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of many members of my staff through the years. I thank them for their efforts on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus and the people of Illinois. I also want to thank the many volunteers and supporters who worked on behalf of the residents of the 22nd District. It is with the collective support of many that we have made Illinois a bastion of Democratic values.
“I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”
Speaker Chris Welch released a statement following Madigan’s announcement and thanked him for his decades of service.
“I thank the former Speaker for his sincere and meaningful contributions to our state,” Welch said Thursday.
“Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion and cooperation expected by our constituents. I truly appreciate his contributions and I join Illinoisans across the state in wishing him well,” he said.
“Today’s news of Rep. Madigan’s retirement comes as no surprise to me and every other Illinoisan, and I have been looking forward to this ‘new day’ in Illinois for some time. I urge the Democrats in both Chambers and the Governor to reflect on how we can use this opportunity to improve Illinois. Rep. Madigan’s autocratic rule over the decades has not made Illinois a more prosperous nor competitive state,” Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement Thursday.
“Our state is in shambles – financially, structurally and ethically. New ideas and sincere collaboration between the parties is the only pathway forward,” Durkin said.
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