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Former GOP legislator heaps rare praise on Madigan

Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019

* Former Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville) penned a recent op-ed for the Daily Herald about what happened when he decided to reenlist in the Marines back in 2007 and deployed to Iraq

What I did not expect, however, was the criticism I received from some in my own political party.

I was told that I needed to resign my House seat because Speaker Madigan would certainly target my district during my absence.

Naturally, I met with Speaker Madigan and, upon hearing my situation, he could not have been more helpful. We discussed the nature of my unit and our duty in Iraq’s Anbar province. He listened and noted that this had not happened with a legislator since World War II. In the end, he assured me that my seat would not be targeted and, further, that his office was there to help me and my district however possible.

And help he did. The speaker’s staff provided input as our unit advised the Anbar Provincial Council on a host of constitutional and legislative issues.

Equally important, Speaker Madigan created an environment which allowed two Democrat legislators to service my district. Dan Beiser, a Democrat from Alton, toured Grafton during a flood and assured my constituents that their needs would be met even though I was in Iraq. To this day, I still have a picture in my office where our two districts meet near Grafton and Alton, along the Mississippi River. The photo was a gift from Rep. Beiser honoring my service and our friendship. For me, it serves as a reminder of his statesmanship. […]

People often ask about lessons learned from my time in Iraq and in the Illinois General Assembly. Without hesitation, I point to the bipartisan help I received from my colleagues and specifically, House Speaker Madigan. My experience is a paradigm of what politics can be.

I share this story because millions of dollars were spent during the last campaign cycle vilifying a man in a manner hitherto unheard of. I worked with and against that man on various legislative issues. I found him to be tough but fair. Our disagreements were never personal. Rather, they were restricted to the merits of the issue. And in my time of need, a time of war, that man, Speaker Michael J. Madigan, extended a hand because it was the right thing to do.

The elections are over, and our state faces a mountain of issues. We need a true statesman who can work together to make difficult decisions. I hope this story serves as an example of what can be done.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:59 am:

    wow. just wow. nice story.

  2. - El Conquistador - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:59 am:

    Wow. Actual adults in government. Can’t wait till the bratty snide Raunerites are gone. 5 days if anyone is counting.

  3. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    Jim Watson was always a lawmaker who understood his relationships with people go beyond the political world.

    Even though I am a Dem, and at the time was working for a gov. he didn’t care for, Jim always treated me and my fellow gov’s staff with respect and was always straight up with us when it came time to work him on a bill.

    More than a few of the current GA members would be well served to pattern their work after Watson.

  4. - Maximus - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:04 am:

    This is an excellent story showing how politics should work in Illinois and how we shouldnt be so focused on whether someone has a D or an R in front of their name.

  5. - Wow - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    Too many people have no idea of the things that get done and said outside of the front pages of the press. This is NOT unusual.. the Speaker’s generation, particular Chicago Democratic ward leaders were always helping people without a lot of fanfare. Not to compare the 2, but a current Chicago ward Leader is having a tough go to say the least. His enemies that have known him for a long time will tell you that nobody has helped more people in Chicago than this guy. If you understood old time Chicago wars politics, you would know that this situation with Rep Watson is not an isolated occurrence by the Speaker.

  6. - Maestro - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    One of the speaker’s strengths is his ability to reach out to all. It isn’t personal. The soon-to-be former governor never really understood that, which is probably why he is soon-to-be former.

  7. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:10 am:

    In and of itself, it’s a great story on how partisanship can be put aside in extraordinary circumstances, similar to how Durbin covered Kirk’s office after his stroke.

    Placed in the context of Madigan’s recent image spot, I see the makings of an actual p.r. operation.

    Curious as to the Daily Herald placement. I’m wondering if Watson’s column was shopped anywhere else, i.e., troncsylania.

    The following, however, is depressing:

    –What I did not expect, however, was the criticism I received from some in my own political party.

    I was told that I needed to resign my House seat because Speaker Madigan would certainly target my district during my absence.–

    The dude was enlisting in the Marines, risking his life in a combat zone to serve his country. Concerns about a single House seat of the GOPs perpetual minority are beyond petty.

  8. - Shamrockery - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    Wow. Nothing but respect for all of them. More of this, please.

  9. - illini - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:19 am:

    I can remember when my former State Senator Luechtefeld told me about the weekly poker games he had with his fellow Senators. One of those was our future President.

    There was genuine mutual respect for each other as individuals even though they often voted quite differently.

    Maybe those were different times and the mandatory animosity to those of another party was not as pronounced as it might be today.

    Hoping to see more of this.

  10. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:22 am:

    A microcosm of what bipartisanship could be.

    I love that it is also a Chicago pol offering support to a Downstate pol.

    Why can there not be more of this?

    Why the fake, manufactured divide?

  11. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:50 am:

    ===The dude was enlisting in the Marines, risking his life in a combat zone to serve his country. Concerns about a single House seat of the GOPs perpetual minority are beyond petty.===

    The GOP’s reputation as the party that cares about veterans and the military is very much undeserved. Kudos to Mike Madigan for helping out a man who was serving his country.

  12. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    ==- Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:22 am:==

    Because conservatives are too busy pandering to an ultra right-wing base.

  13. - Not It - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:05 am:

    The cynic in me says Watson is interviewing for a job with the administration.

  14. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:06 am:

    ===The cynic in me says===

    You don’t know him very well. He’s always been like that.

  15. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    ===Why the fake, manufactured divide?===

    It is all about electing people with a high quality of character. It is something that is way more important to me than political party or ideology. I can actually remember the first democrat I ever voted for. It was Melissa Bean. Why? Because the guy running against her was obviously a very flawed human being and she was decent and honorable.

  16. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    Stunning…..seriously this took my breath away.
    Yes please, please, please
    more of this.
    Oscar pics and this.

  17. - Anotheretiree - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    Reminds me of when I heard Lt. Gov Pat Quinn quietly attended Illinois Afghan/Iraq military funerals.

  18. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:58 am:

    This article and Durkin’s support for the lame duck legislation that helps Pritzker are both signs that reasonable folks feel that is safe to come out and be reasonable again. Not that they have to agree on everything, but that they can acknowledge that policy disagreements don’t need to be personal and that not every piece of legislation needs to used in a proxy war. Here’s hoping there is more of this as we shift out of the honeymoon period.

  19. - Earnest - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    Unusual these days for anyone of either party to put themselves out there saying positive things about Madigan or about political opponents. It shows character and leadership. Hopefully we’ll get to see a lot of it on display in the next couple of years from our current legislators.

  20. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    What’s great about this story is the collegial way that Madigan knee that serving overseas was far more important than winning a seat, and that sacrifice need not have to worry about serving, while serving us all in uniform.

    More stories like this, please.

    They are out there. Let’s embrace them.

  21. - Decaturland - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 3:55 pm:

    Too bad Watson didn’t stay in House and become Republican leader.

  22. - Bourbon Street - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 5:23 pm:

    So proud of Watson for serving our country, and Madigan and others for their tremendous support of Watson and his constituents. Makes me proud to be an American and from Illinois, a great state that has led the nation before (e.g. establishing juvenile courts) and that has the potential to do so in the future.

  23. - Mama - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 5:25 pm:

    Jim Watson, thank you for your service on two different fronts.

  24. - "Old Timer Dem" - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 5:37 pm:

    Madigan has done a lot of good things for people in need without seeking publicity. He is largely misunderstood.

  25. - Hawkeye - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 6:01 pm:

    Well played, Mr. Watson.

    Well played.

  26. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:39 pm:

    –Madigan has done a lot of good things for people in need without seeking publicity. He is largely misunderstood.–

    He sure doesn’t blow his horn too much. To his detriment, over the decades (Bill Kurtis). Different kind of politician.

    Back around 2003 or so, I did pro-bono marketing for a project with Easter Seals to bring in the autism school and research center at the Illinois Medical District off the Ike.

    To make a very long story short, none it would have ever happened without Madigan. Private money, some small public money, negotiating land swaps with Daley, bada bip, bada boop, it finally happened. He worked it, and made it happen.

    The dude didn’t even show up at the groundbreaking. Crazy-shy for a politician. Like no one I’ve ever seen.

    I’ll tell you one thing — it explains his anger about the Friday Massacre, when Rauner reneged on autism funding.

    You only get one Big Lie, baby.

  27. - anon2 - Thursday, Jan 10, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    Watson represented the pre-Tea Party, pre-Trump Republicans.

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