Scandal-plagued Speaker Michael Madigan on Monday suspended his bid to keep running the Illinois House, even as he left open the possibility he could reemerge if Democrats can’t agree on a replacement.
The move was politically calculated, an aide privately acknowledged, as Madigan plays a waiting game.
The state has several important issues to resolve, and the new House that gets sworn in Wednesday can’t tackle any of them until a speaker is elected. The longer that process drags on, the greater the pressure on anti-Madigan lawmakers to compromise — which could allow the speaker, a politician known for brokering deals, to recapture the gavel.
The move amounts to a dare by Madigan to any of the other 72 House Democrats to try to cobble together a coalition to oust him, a tall task given the breadth of diversity of the caucus. It’ll take 60 votes to elect a House speaker, and Madigan had 51 during a closed-door vote on Sunday, with the next-closest contender, Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago, getting 18 votes.
Late Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times learned that the Black Caucus had chosen state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, as its candidate for speaker. A source within the caucus said Welch would have Madigan’s backing.
But Madigan’s spokesman denied that.
Reached for comment, Steve Brown said the veteran speaker isn’t “taking any position on any of the candidates who’ve either been announced or whose names have been mentioned in the media.”
Willis on Monday told NPR Illinois she felt Madigan’s refusal to withdraw from the Speaker’s race is not leadership.
“I think leadership is to make a decision and that’s why I did what I did, putting my support behind Representative Williams,” Willis said. “I think that was for the good of the caucus to be able to do that…And I would love to see a woman in that chair. That’s one of the reasons that I ran.” […]
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), one of Madigan’s most vocal critics, is reportedly mulling a run for speaker herself. Cassidy on Monday didn’t criticize Madigan for merely suspending but not withdrawing from the campaign, casting the development as an “opportunity” for unity.
“This news came as a shock to a lot of the caucus, so I expect the race will change dramatically as a result,” Cassidy said. “This is a time to hear what all of our colleagues have to say about their visions for a new leadership team. I have nothing to announce right now, but will keep everyone apprised if that should change.”
* Mark Brown…
Lawmakers were left to supply their own interpretation of the speaker’s words, hardly a first time for any of them.
My interpretation? If House Democrats figure out how hard it is to put together a 60-vote majority and give up, they’re welcome to come crawling back to Madigan.
I don’t expect that to happen. Sure, House Democrats are going to have some difficulty agreeing on somebody else after taking their cues for so long from Madigan, who leaves no obvious heir apparent.
But not so much trouble that the 19 House Democrats whose opposition brought matters to this point will decide it was all a big mistake and abandon their quest for new leadership.
In other words, I really think it is over for Madigan, except that it can’t be over until he explicitly says it’s over — or until somebody else puts together the 60 votes.
* Blog coverage headlines…
* House Black Caucus backs Rep. Chris Welch for Speaker
* Pritzker on Madigan, CTU, FBI warning about armed protests (updated with comment from Leader Durkin)
* Despite suspension of his campaign, Madigan still has staunch loyalists
* Women’s groups now say that new House Speaker must have supported the ERA, HB40 and the RHA (updated with Personal PAC comments) https://capitolfax.com/2021/01/11/womens-groups-now-say-that-new-house-speaker-must-have-supported-the-era-hb40-and-the-rha/
* Speaker Madigan to suspend campaign… for now (updated)