* Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton…
“I do plan to have the Legislature very involved in the process,” Welch said. “This year, we’re working through COVID protocols. We’ll use the [Bank of Springfield] Center if we have to but we’re looking at a safe return to the Capitol so that we can be engaged in the governing process in 2021.” […]
Normally the House would adopt its rules after members are sworn in, but Welch said he’s taken that off the table for Thursday’s session. He’s “promised my caucus that we would do an examination and make changes where we can possibly make changes and … we’re going to keep that promise right away.” […]
Addressing concerns around the allegations and the belief by some that it should disqualify him, Welch said he thinks the work he’s done demonstrates the person he is.
“I believe that the work that I have done in the legislature has demonstrated who I am as a person … it demonstrates what people think of me because this happened pretty fast and many of my colleagues are the ones who encouraged me to do this,” Welch said. “… I think that’s because they know me, they’ve worked with me and I think there’s a smear campaign led by the Republican Party, and some in our party, to try to prevent this moment in history from happening. Many great moments in history, you have to go through things and I don’t see this [as being] any different.”
…Adding… Dave Dahl…
Welch also has a past to answer to. He was accused about ten years ago of sexually harassing female school district employees when he was the school board president; and about twenty years ago of beating a former girlfriend. One of the two Present votes in the speaker’s vote came from State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who later said the allegations should be more thoroughly investigated.
“Let me tell you something about Rep. Kelly Cassidy,” Welch said. “We’re friends, and we don’t always agree. And when we disagree, we disagree respectfully. So i respect how she has handled this approach. Do I agree with it? Not necessarily. But i respect it.”
The ex-girlfriend did not press charges, and proceedings in sexual harassment suits were dropped.
…Adding… Mary Ann Ahern at NBC 5…
Welch responded to concerns about the Hillsdale incident, saying that he would have “handled the situation differently.”
“Nothing happened that you should be concerned about,” he said. “I was not arrested and charged and would I handle a situation differently, where I don’t have to go to a police station and answer questions, absolutely.”
Before he left Springfield, Madigan offered some simple advice to his replacement: to “trust his instinct.”
*** UPDATE *** Illinois NOW…
Yesterday, history was made in the Illinois State Capitol as Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch became the first Black person to be elected Speaker of the House in Illinois. We celebrate this historic step toward legislative leadership that more accurately represents and celebrates the diversity of Illinois citizens. Newly-elected Speaker Welch has long been a strong advocate for women’s rights, and we look forward to working with him to pass laws that protect Illinois women, including the repeal of the Illinois Parental Notification Act.
In the midst of this historic day, another strong advocate for women’s rights, Representative Kelly Cassidy, voted “present” in Speaker Welch’s election. Rep. Cassidy’s present vote stemmed from re-surfaced allegations of domestic violence and sexual harassment against Speaker Welch. Like Rep. Cassidy, we acknowledge and condemn the long and shameful history of wrongful accusations against Black men in this country, and are loath to detract from Speaker Welch’s historic achievement. However, we must acknowledge that women’s voices have also historically been silenced, especially the voices of women of color. As such, we believe that serious allegations of this nature must be fully investigated, no matter who the allegations are against. We stand in solidarity with Representative Cassidy.