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A new Madigan question: Can he survive?

Friday, Feb 23, 2018

* Mary Ann Ahern talked to congressional candidate Chuy Garcia about Speaker Madigan

Garcia still leads in the polls, but his support of Speaker Mike Madigan has raised concerns as questions arise over the speaker’s handling of sexual harassment allegations within his office.

“If there are more findings that there are violations then I reserve the right to support anyone who is in the race to become the chairman of the Democratic Party,” he said.

That’s the big unknown. What else is out there? Lots and lots of rumors are jetting through the gossip-sphere, but nobody has yet come forward. Madigan has been in power for so long that the odds are pretty darned good that more stories are waiting to be told. But how were those cases handled? And will it matter? Will just the existence of other incidences of harassment, bullying or worse create such a firestorm that he can’t survive? We could be about to find out.

Madigan is now in greater peril than ever before.

* Mark Brown

The biggest factor in Madigan’s immediate fate — the great unknown hanging over all Illinois Democrats right now — is whether more women will come forward publicly to accuse the veteran speaker or his staff of mishandling sexual harassment complaints involving his underlings.

If that happens, then Madigan quickly will find himself in uncharted waters that could defy his proven ability to stay the course and this columnist’s ability to foresee the outcome.

Four years of close combat with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have left Madigan a wounded leader whose negative public image has become a liability for his party and its candidates.

The question Democratic officials keep asking themselves is whether Madigan’s liabilities outweigh his value to the party as an election-winner who stands as a bulwark against the policies and politics of Rauner.

* Fran Spielman

“I don’t think it helps us four weeks before an election to take the person who runs the statewide mechanism and say, `You’re out.’ We’re trying to actually win an election across the state,” said [Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th)], a Democratic ward committeeman.

“It would be like taking Eisenhower out as the troops are landing on Normandy. We just need to make sure that we win this primary. Once the primary is over, then we can figure out where we need to be as a party to take on the Republicans moving forward.” […]

O’Connor stopped short of condoning Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment and bullying allegations within his organization.

“There’s gonna be plenty of time to figure out the sequencing and how this thing worked and figure out whether they made mistakes or not and whether those mistakes rise to the level of him [having to] move away,” O’Connor said.

“I just think doing it before a primary election is just a crazy thing. Let’s get the primary over, figure out who’s gonna take the Republicans on in November, then figure out what our best strategy is to win that race.”

Eisenhower? From a top Republican…

Madigan’s allies are resorting to ridiculous metaphors and hyperbole to defend him. Might be more ridiculous than the time John Bradley compared Madigan to Benjamin Franklin and said that Madigan fits Pope Francis’ definition of a public servant.

* From the Illinois News Network, formerly controlled by the Illinois Policy Institute

With the exception of a few years in the 1990s, Madigan has been speaker since 1983. He’s been the chairman of the state Democratic party since 1998. Steans said it’s best practice to separate the two roles.

“I think [Madigan is] going to have to make his own decision about whether he steps down or not,” Steans said. “I certainly think best practices are that you shouldn’t wear both of those hats.”

Steans said someone like Madigan holding both positions could cause conflicts of interest, noting that no other Senate president or House speaker in the U.S. is also their state’s party chairman.

“You want somebody as party chair who’s looking out for the entire state, all races, not necessarily mixing it in with the policy of what you’re trying to accomplish in one chamber,” Steans said. “I just think there’s some inherent conflict that can come about because of that.”

Steans is a Sentor and DPI is pretty much all about the House. It’s not about party building, it’s about House building.

* These next two items were mentioned in this morning’s subscriber edition. John Kass

Democratic Boss Madigan has been frantically trying to put out fires over recent allegations that his top political soldiers have harassed women.

And now there’s another fire for Madigan, from an old ember that’s been smoldering for years in Blue Island, and now blazes again:

State Rep. Bob Rita.

Rita, a top ally of Speaker Michael Madigan in the Illinois House, who’s from a Blue Island family that has controlled Democratic politics there for decades, as if Blue Island were a family business, has trouble in his past.

* Derrick Blakley at CBS 2

“I don’t think Mike Madigan has been sensitive to the issue of sexual harassment,” says Mary Carvlin, Democratic candidate for state representative.

Carvlin, an elementary school teacher and mother of two, is taking on one of Madigan’s strongest allies, state Rep. Bob Rita, alleging that Madigan’s support for Rita shows he’s no friend of women.

“Where was he 16 years ago, when my opponent Bob Rita was on trial for beating a woman?” she asks.

Back in 2002, Rita was charged with domestic battery and criminal trespass for allegedly beating up an ex-girlfriend. A jury found him not guilty, but the trial judge also extended an order of protection for the woman, against Rita, for two years. […]

For two days, Blakley looked around Blue Island, trying to get Rita’s side of the story – to no avail. He also did not return messages.

* From Rita’s spokesperson…

The order of protection expired with the acquittal. The judge left open a possible hearing on extending it, but prosecutors never pursued that.

* While we’re at it

By all outside appearances, 2016 was the year Revolution Messaging arrived. The upstart political firm, founded by alumni of Barack Obama’s presidential runs, was the mastermind behind the punk-rock vibe of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and helped him raise a staggering $218 million in small donations.

But inside the firm, the staff was in revolt.

Revolution forced out a female employee in early 2016, just two months after one of the company’s partners ― her supervisor ― had been accused of physically assaulting her at a company holiday function, several people with knowledge of the incident said. The firm had quickly fired the partner. But multiple Revolution employees worried that the woman’s departure was retaliatory ― and symptomatic of a workplace in which some women and people of color felt overlooked or marginalized.

An expenditure search of the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website turned up these results

* Kennedy for Illinois ($174,429.75 from 3/28/2017 through 11/1/2017)

* Chicago for Rahm Emanuel ($12,500 in 2011)

* Citizens to Elect Karen Lewis Mayor of Chicago ($4,750 in late 2014 through early 2015.

* Chicagoans United for Economic Security PAC ($35,051.25 in 2015)

Remember that any campaign using the firm this quarter wouldn’t show up in that search.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Fax Machine - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 1:56 pm:

    There could have been a grassroots effort to oust Madigan from the party by fielding candidates for all 36 spots on the State Central Committee - all you need is 100 good sigs a pop (get 400 to be safe).

    Yet no one seemed interested


  2. - Roman - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:02 pm:

    Mark Brown pretty much nails it. If Pritzker loses, the call for Madigan to step down as State Chair will get pretty loud (and Berrios losing would also do some damage.) Then again, the members of the state central committee might be closer politically to Madigan than the Dem members of the House.


  3. - Mouthy - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    Is somebody else writing the checks now?
    Didn’t think so…
    Don’t put a fork in him cause he ain’t done..


  4. - Rutro - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:07 pm:

    Is Ald. O’Connor using the Republicans as Nazi’s in this analogy? I thought he had a brain.

    It also makes no sense, as 1.)This is a primary and 2.) Madigan is their biggest weakness.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:12 pm:

    ===Yet no one seemed interested ===

    Our Revolution has a slate.


  6. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:12 pm:

    –“It would be like taking Eisenhower out as the troops are landing on Normandy. –

    Geez, he started the weekend early. Someone grab his car keys.

    But to continue with loony analogies, Lincoln sacked Hooker and appointed Meade three days before Gettysburg, a very near thing and the three days that defined the United States.


  7. - Flashback to 2014 - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:17 pm:

    —-Fran Spielman…
    “I don’t think it helps us four weeks before an election…—-

    Am I the only one who remembers 2014? Perfect example of why people and the media shouldn’t rush to judgement just weeks before an election. Look at what that got us.


  8. - titan - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:19 pm:

    ++ What else is out there? Lots and lots of rumors are jetting through the gossip-sphere, but nobody has yet come forward. Madigan has been in power for so long that the odds are pretty darned good that more stories are waiting to be told. ++

    I go back to the 1980s. Campaign work (like much of the rest of life) was ruder, cruder and meaner to the minions than people will tolerate today. On the harassment front, they had significant aspects of backstage with Led Zeppelin or Van Halen. On the oppression front, they resembled the building of the pyramids or the operation of a Roman galley boat.

    There are probably multiple instances of bad behavior in most campaigns from back then. If were going to look back decades, there is almost certainly a lot more stories that could surface.


  9. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:23 pm:

    Madigan believes he will survive as long as Len O’connor supports him during his WMAQ commentaries broadcasting across Chicagoland, or hear him on the radio while commuting to Springfield in his Olds Dynamic 88 hardtop.


  10. - Ahoy! - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:24 pm:

    Of course he’s going to survive, the Democrats just don’t have the stuff to overthrow him and he’s just too powerful. Most people are going to be too scared to come forward.


  11. - ArchPundit - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:27 pm:

    —-Yet no one seemed interested

    People have run and won before and it turns out in private Mike Madigan is charming and he wins them over. True, there’s never been a full slate, but it’s been one of those things I’ve always enjoyed watching.


  12. - Texas Red - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:35 pm:

    ““It would be like taking Eisenhower out as the troops are landing on Normandy”

    Reminds me of Bluto’s famous quote from Animal House.

    “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? “


  13. - Keyrock - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:39 pm:

    Great points VamillaMan. Len has always been one of my guiding lights. I prefer him to Skippy.


  14. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:40 pm:

    ==DPI is pretty much all about the House. It’s not about party building, it’s about House building. ==

    This is the long-term problem for the DPI. The party needs leadership beyond electing House members. Into this void the Dem County Chairs Assoc has been growing and has begun filling the true role of a state party. Unfortunately, this is not the most efficient use of resources and it allows Madigan to avoid responsibility to the party at large.

    Madigan has been very valuable to Illinois Dems, but its hard to see how the party moves forward in a meaningful way with him at the helm and everyone else trying to work around him. Whoever wins the Gov primary will need to sit down with Madigan, Doug House, and the State Central Committee and straighten this out. They need to recognize that the Dem Party would benefit from a more independent Chair. It should be seen as an evolution of the organization.


  15. - Anon221 - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:40 pm:

    Focus, people, focus. Rauner out first, then work with Madigan for a transition in the Dem Party Committee leadership. The Speakership will be determined in the House. The two items are separate. It seems Madigan may be presenting an opportunity to start these transitions, and place more women into leadership positions with the committees/groups that have been recently formed to address the harassment issues. But, first things first… Rauner needs to go and the Dems need to be united in that, especially once the primary is over.


  16. - Sigh - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:48 pm:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear Mary Carvlin‘s views on criminal justice reforms, people being wrongfully accused/convictioned and the death penalty? I sense there would be some irony given the her comments about her opponent.

    She obviously hold ones past against them and does’t believe people can change or in second chances. I’m glad she wasn’t one of my teachers.


  17. - jake - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 2:50 pm:

    The real reason Madigan should go is not the immediate events that are bringing the issue to a boil, but because he has been more responsible than any other individual for the long term financial ill-health of the state. Time after time he has put short term political gain over long term benefit to the state, maximizing his majority by spending money in excess of revenue and borrowing from the pension funds to do it Whatever the pressures that put him out, it is time.


  18. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 3:06 pm:

    I can’t see how Madigan will be retained as party chairman after the primary. For what good reasons? Whose interest would that serve, other than his ego?

    Through a combination of arrogance and, frankly, stupidity, Madigan allowed himself over the years to be painted as the Emperor Palpatine of Illinois politics.

    That didn’t have to happen; a PR 101 effort could have easily mitigated the damage. It’s not that the Rauner/tronc/IPI propaganda machine is good at what they do — they’re not, they’re simple-minded and awful. But Madigan never fought back. Again, arrogant and stupid.

    Now he’s in trouble and there is absolutely no public goodwill for him to draw upon. It’s his own fault.

    The next vote for speaker is a lifetime away. But I imagine every member of the state party committee will gladly vote for Anybody But Madigan after the primary.


  19. - low level - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 3:13 pm:

    Given the time he has been in office, as repeated ad nauseum if there was a widespread culture” issue I would think reporters phones would be ringing off the hook in the weeks since Hampton came forward. Have they?

    There has been a female majority leader since 1997. Barbara Flynn Currie is one tough and sharp representative. Monique Davis, now retired. Same. Elaine Nekrtiz. The plethora of women Dem reps over the last many years?

    If they, retired, come now and claim some “culture” then he’d have to go.

    Ultra independent Chuy Garcia is behind this so called “machine hack” also? That doesnt fit the narrative many want.

    The only one frantic is JKass that he hasnt been contacted. That is upsetting to him.


  20. - Annonin' - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 3:41 pm:

    Yup all about House…Mendoza…tall guy..Jesse and AG…wonderin’…if anyone has figured out a general plan with PQ on ticket?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Tribune asked 16 mayoral candidates to release tax returns, 6 complied
* A rough idea of what they're looking at
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Rauner was wrong about "record levels" of unionization
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Stava-Murray updates
* Pritzker's inauguration ball tix will benefit Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic and Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation
* Rauner claims he's been too busy to reflect on his term
* Pritzker's day in DC
* *** UPDATED x3 - Morrison wants emergency meeting of ILGOP - McConnaughay explains - Schneider responds *** Rauner says he tried to drop out of race after primary
* Feds re-raid Ald. Burke's office
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
* Yesterday's stories

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