* Tony Arnold at WBEZ…
Citing concerns that their division over reelecting Michael Madigan as Illinois House Speaker is giving strength to their political opponents, six Illinois House Democrats are pleading with their 19 colleagues who have committed to not supporting Madigan to “come together as a family” and “unite for a common purpose.”
In a letter marked “Confidential” and obtained by WBEZ on Thursday, the group laid out a lengthy case that the Democratic caucus should unite in order to advance their own substantial agenda. That includes addressing systemic racism, a massive state budget hole caused by a stalled economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and even ethics reforms.
While the letter does not overtly call on any of the 19 lawmakers who oppose Madigan to flip back in favor of Madigan, the authors do appear to be challenging the 19 — urging them to talk with the Democrats who remain aligned with Madigan to come up with a solution. […]
They cite a recently-published Chicago Tribune editorial in which the newspaper’s editorial board advocates for Republicans — who hold a super minority of members in the House — to get behind a Democratic lawmaker who is not Madigan to be the next speaker. […]
The letter was signed by six Madigan-aligned state representatives: Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, Frances Hurley, D-Chicago, John D’Amico, D-Chicago, Nick Smith, D-Chicago, Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, and Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island.
*** UPDATE *** The letter…
We write to you during unprecedented times for the House Democratic Caucus. Commonwealth Edison’s deferred prosecution agreement and subsequent indictments have understandably caused many of us to consider the future of our Caucus, who should lead us, and the type of transition process we all wish would occur in the coming months. Each of you has publicly, in your own way, acknowledged that these circumstances have led you to a position where you cannot place your faith in Mike Madigan to continue as House Speaker for the 102nd General Assembly. While many members of the Caucus do not agree with that conclusion, your personal process in reaching your decision deserves respect and recognition, both individually and collectively. You are our brothers and sisters, and we have no doubt through all of this, our Caucus will come out stronger on the other side.
We would be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge the perilous state our Caucus finds itself in as we enter 2021. Illinois is facing a massive budget crisis, exacerbated by a decimated economy due to COVID-19 and the failure of the Fair Tax proposal. Our state’s congressional and legislative maps must be redrawn next Spring, a process that inevitably will be challenged by forces determined to undermine the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity of this state by insisting that artificial constraints be placed upon our ability to best represent our constituents. The Black Caucus is asking us to address systemic racism, including the fundamental flaws within the criminal justice system, economic inequity, and policing reform. The Governor’s office and environmental groups are prepared to ask us to address an environmental package that will fundamentally change Illinois’ energy market and our approach to environmental justice for generations. Local property taxes continue to rise unabated, and taxpayers will continue to suffer as units of local government struggle to fund education, fire departments, and other necessary services. Ethics reforms to help rebuild faith in our state and local elected officials can’t be implemented until we reconvene. Not to mention the various issues of importance to local communities and the 177 members of the General Assembly. None of this is, nor should be, news to you. But saying it out loud demonstrates the enormity of what lies ahead.
On Sunday, December 6, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board wrote the following:
Illinois Republicans made minor gains in the November election in Illinois. They recently floated the idea of their House leader, Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs, courting Democrats for the January vote to be House speaker. That idea got torpedoed within hours. Democrats might not want to keep reporting to Madigan, but they won’t support a Republican to lead the House.
To be clear, the Editorial Board with a history of animosity toward core issues that our Caucus holds dear has openly called for the House Republican Caucus to intervene in our leadership election. The inherent danger in even considering that premise cannot be understated.
For any outside forces, specifically those with ideological bents against social services, persons of color, women, veterans, public education and labor to even broach the idea that our Caucus’ leadership should be decided by any other voices but our own is disturbing. It poses a risk to our constituents we individually and collectively work to protect. For four years, our caucus stood united as the single barrier between Bruce Rauner, the Republican caucuses, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, and others who fought to destroy our state and our values. Meanwhile, we are the Caucus that delivered on promises to allow our citizens to marry who they choose to love; guarantee equal pay for women; raise the minimum wage; repeal the death penalty; legalize and regulate cannabis; mandate corporations prioritize diversity on their boards; develop a first-of- its-kind mental health reporting system for firearm ownership; require disinvestment of State funds from countries such as the Sudan and Iran, and pass a comprehensive capital bill. United, we are capable of fundamentally good things.
The reason the Editorial Board felt it had license to even make the suggestion is because we aren’t united—neither publicly, nor privately. This kind of pressure will only increase in the coming weeks, and, left to fester, cause damage to our mission to serve our constituents best. There is so much on the line. The time is short. The stakes are high.
This letter isn’t meant to persuade you to question your decision, rather it is an invitation to come together as a family and show our opposition that we’re better than they assume. That we, the House Democratic Caucus, can once again unite for a common purpose. That we are more concerned about the collective fate of our state than our individual elections.
We very much hope you consider this in the spirit in which it was intended: a desire to start a dialogue, in the forum of an agreed upon choice, to achieve a path forward for us all. We look forward to hearing from you.
* Rep. Ford explains the political arithmetic behind Black Caucus’ endorsement of Mike Madigan for IL House Speaker