(The Center Square) – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is suspending his campaign for speaker, but he says he hasn't withdrawn.
In a statement released Monday, Madigan, D-Chicago, announced the decision.
“This is not a withdrawal,” Madigan said.
“As I have said many times in the past, I have always put the best interest of the House Democratic Caucus and our members first,” Madigan said. “The House Democratic Caucus can work to find someone, other than me, to get 60 votes for Speaker.”
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said during a Sunday caucus vote for speaker, no one came out on top.
“The vote totals were not favorable for either of the three candidates,” Ford told WMAY. “Michael Madigan had the most, 51, I think. [State Rep.] Ann Williams had 18 or 19. [State Rep.] Stephanie Kifowit had 3. I was one of the 51 voting for Michael Madigan.”
Madigan has been the speaker for all but two years since 1983. He’s been surrounded by controversies in the past several years, ranging from staffers allegedly harassing employees to being implicated in the ComEd bribery scheme revealed in a deferred prosecution agreement federal prosecutors released last summer.
Madigan has not been charged in the ComEd scandal and maintains he’s done nothing wrong.
Regardless, Ford said he still supported the speaker but acknowledged Monday a lack of leadership during the pandemic.
“The speaker of the house has allowed the governor to govern this state by executive orders, I don’t like it, I’ve always been ready to come back and deal with what pandemic and its impact it’s having on impoverished communities and businesses,” Ford said. “Of course, I think it’s a miscalculation on the speaker’s part to not have been back in Springfield working and having some way to do business efficiently during the pandemic.“
Another member of the caucus said there could be a race between state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, and state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago. Neither could immediately be reached for comment. Whoever gets 60 of the 117 votes from members of the House will be the speaker when the new term begins Wednesday.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Madigan's decision to suspend rather than withdraw would sow uncertainty.
“With 36 hours left before the swearing-in of a new General Assembly, Michael Madigan continues to create uncertainty and misdirection," Durkin said in a statement. "His latest statement about suspending his bid for Speaker, but not withdrawing, is typical of his style and appears to be another ploy or a head fake. For the sake of the institution, his caucus must demand that he be direct and honest about his intentions – in or out.”
State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said she didn’t expect Republicans to play a role in who will be the next speaker.
“House Democrats, they need to feel the heat,” Bourne said. “House Republicans are not going to bail them out to get a new speaker. They need to figure this out in their own caucus and do some soul searching about where the future of this state goes and the future of where the party goes if they want to be attached to Madigan.”
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, called Madigan's suspension "historic" for the state.
“Speaker Madigan’s decision to suspend his campaign is an opportunity for us to come together as Democrats and carve a new path forward," she said. "Our caucus’ growing diversity is our strength, and we need to respect that as we decide what our leadership team looks like going forward. I anticipate that this debate will be robust and impassioned, but in the end, we are all Democrats, and we will come together to turn the page and fight for new solutions for the people of Illinois."
She added: “This news came as a shock to a lot of the caucus, so I expect the race will change dramatically as a result. 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.”
Madigan is not only the longest-serving state House speaker in the nation, he’s also the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, giving him a nexus of power to control legislation and Democratic political funds.