(The Center Square) – Some will remember Michael Madigan for helping people while others will remember him for machine politics.
Madigan, D-Chicago, announced Thursday he’s resigning his seat after 50 years, most of which he served as House Speaker.
Democrats roundly praised Madigan, saying the former speaker ushered in reforms that improved the lives of Illinoisans.
Republicans said Madigan oversaw out-of-balanced budgets, bloated pensions and machine politics that benefited loyal allies instead of the people of Illinois.
Madigan held more power in Illinois politics that most politicians, in part because served as speaker of the House and chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. As speaker, he controlled what legislation advanced in the chamber. As chairman, he controlled the party's purse strings.
In a statement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised Madigan for being a “bulwark against constant cruelty” during his Republican predecessor’s term.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner told NBC Chicago on Thursday that Madigan’s resignation was one of the best birthday gifts he’s ever received.
Kent Redfield, professor at University of Illinois - Springfield, said the years-long budget stalemate under Rauner showed Madigan’s focus.
“That was about winning that battle, not ‘where's the future, how do we not repeat,’” Redfield said.
During Madigan's tenure, the state’s credit rating plummeted to near junk status with ballooning legacy pension debt and unbalanced budgets. But others point to the passage of increased minimum wage, women’s reproductive rights and other issues.
Madigan’s legacy will be based on that drive to win, regardless of ideology, Redfield said.
“That’s patronage politics, that’s ‘where’s mine’ politics,” Redfield said. “It’s about relationships and loyalty and obligations and party in more of the general sense in being loyal to the organization.”
Madigan also caps his career being labeled as “Public Official A” by federal investigators in a nine-year bribery scheme involving ComEd. Last year, the utility admitted it paid bribes to Madigan associates in an effort to influence the speaker.
Pritzker was asked Thursday if Madigan’s resignation was good for the state.
“That kind of, the innuendo, the accusations that exist that are around things like that are not good,” Pritzker said.
Madigan has not been charged and has maintained he knew nothing of a nearly decade-long scheme seeking to influence him.
Madigan will still have influence as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, and in selecting who will replace him in the state legislature.
Madigan initially said he would resign at the end of the month, but later Thursday made his resignation effective immediately.