A month after losing the reins as speaker, state Rep. Michael Madigan is exiting the Illinois House.
Madigan will resign at the end of February, according to a statement released Thursday morning.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service. Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life,” Madigan said in a statement. “These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House.”
Madigan has represented the 22nd District on Chicago’s South Side since 1971 and steadily amassed political capital. He’s frequently recognized as Illinois’ most powerful politician — more powerful than many of the governors elected during his tenure.
Much of that stemmed from the levers he pulled as speaker, a role he held for all but two years since 1983, giving him the distinction of being the longest-serving statehouse legislative leader in the U.S. in modern times.
But he’s also held the job of chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Thursday’s statement made no reference to his future in that role.
The statement made only a veiled reference to the corruption scandals that have long dogged Madigan, particularly since last summer when federal prosecutors announced a deal with Commonwealth Edison in which the utility admitted to spending nearly a decade conspiring with one of Madigan’s closest associates, lobbyist and former state Rep. Mike McClain, to influence and bribe Madigan.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois,” Madigan said in his statement. “I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”
Madigan has denied any knowledge of, or participation in, the scheme. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.
As alderman of Chicago’s 13th Ward, Madigan protégé Marty Quinn shares an office with Madigan. In a statement, Quinn credits him for teaching “many invaluable lessons.”
“His unwavering commitment to his family has instilled in me how to be a good husband and father. Speaker Madigan has always fought for the little guy, ensuring people have the opportunities to build a good life for themselves and their families,” Quinn said. “I’m particularly proud of our accomplishments to provide nearly $250 million in quality educational opportunities to students of all ages throughout the district. Working alongside Speaker Madigan has been the honor of a lifetime. The immense sacrifices the entire Madigan family has made for the people of Illinois and the residents of the 22nd district will be felt for years to come.”
Madigan’s successor, Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, praised his predecessor for leading Democrats to sustained power in Springfield; the party holds supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and controls every statewide office.
“We legalized same-sex marriage, abolished the death penalty and solidified abortion rights. Illinois also became the first state in the Midwest to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. These laws gave underserved populations a new sense of hope,” Welch said in a statement. “Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion and cooperation expected by our constituents. I truly appreciate his contributions and I join Illinoisans across the state in wishing him well.”
Democratic allies, like those in the labor movement, credit Madigan for fending off attempts by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to minimize unions’ power in Springfield
“Speaker Madigan served alongside seven different governors, finding common ground and moving our state forward by working in a bipartisan way with lawmakers from across the political spectrum,” Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said in a statement. “However, he never compromised on his core values and he stood strong for four years against the attacks of former Gov. Bruce Rauner, the most fervent anti-union ideologue Illinois has ever seen.”
But Madigan is reviled in other circles.
A March 2019 poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute pegged Madigan’s disapproval rating at 71% statewide, and 66% in Chicago.
Even some Democrats, like former Cook County Clerk David Orr, now a leader with the Good Government Illinois effort, were outwardly critical of Madigan.
“Old politics has done extraordinary harm and enveloped around Madigan, leading to the loss of Democratic state seats, the recent Fair Tax Amendment, and most importantly the trust in government by Illinois voters. We can thank those who stood up to Madigan for change, clearing a path for a new speaker and a more accountable government for Illinois residents,” Orr said in a statement.
Illinois Republican Party Chair Don Tracy was sharper, and made note of the power of the party and purse that Madigan still wields.
“Chairman Madigan’s legacy is that of presiding over the decline of a once great state, ballooning pension liabilities by hundreds of billions of dollars, and the accumulation of historic political power that primarily benefited government insiders and special interests,” Tracy said in a statement. “Chairman Madigan may no longer be a state representative, but he is still Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois where he personally controls over $15 million in campaign cash.”
With Madigan no longer in office, Republicans have lost a tried and true campaign tactic: trying to drag down Democratic candidates by tying them to Madigan.
Read Madigan’s full statement below:
“Today I am announcing that I will resign as state representative of the 22nd district at the end of the month. It has been my great honor to serve the people of Illinois as speaker of the House and state representative of the 22nd District. This journey would not have been possible without my wonderful wife, Shirley, and children, Lisa, Tiffany, Nicole and Andrew, who have stood by my side year after year, providing their love and support despite the pressure of growing up in the public spotlight. I am fortunate to have them in my life.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service. Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House.
“As speaker, legislator and member of the Illinois Constitutional Convention, I worked to make the General Assembly a co-equal branch of government, ensuring it acted as a check on the power of the governor and the executive branch, especially around a governor’s abuse of the amendatory veto. Many heated battles were fought to keep governors from rewriting legislation sent to them by the General Assembly.
“I am particularly proud of our work to increase the diversity of voices in the House Democratic Caucus to include more women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. In my tenure as Illinois House speaker, we worked to elect representatives across all backgrounds and beliefs to truly represent the interests of the people of our state.
“With the partnership of this diverse and talented group of Illinois Democrats and with our colleagues across the aisle, we were able to level the playing field and strengthen the middle class while workers in other states saw their wages diminished.
“We achieved school funding reform to increase investment for schools in need and address inequalities in our state’s education system. We made Illinois a welcoming state by passing the Illinois Dream Act and providing drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents.
“We strengthened the rights of workers, increased the minimum wage, expanded access to health care for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, and protected a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
“We upheld the rights of all Illinois residents by passing marriage equality, finally recognizing the rights of men and women to marry the people they love. We enacted criminal justice reforms to break down laws that too often target people of color and led the country in expanding voting rights as other states weakened them.
“Collaborating with leaders in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, health care and other industries, we built a partnership with job creators to encourage economic development and address crises in our unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems. We also expanded opportunities in the tourism and film industry, created the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that reinvented McCormick Place and Navy Pier, and established the Illinois Sports Facility Authority that kept the White Sox in Chicago.
“When were confronted with the Rauner administration and the interests of the wealthy, who sought to weaken unions and the labor movement in Illinois, we stood up for working people.
Rauner went on to plunge our state into a budget crisis, nearly bankrupting social service agencies, eliminating funding for higher education, and racking up billions of dollars in state debt in the process. House Democrats stood as the last line of defense to protect our state from collapse.
“Under my leadership, we increased transparency of state and local government by creating the Freedom of Information Act and protecting it from attempts to water it down, impeached Rod Blagojevich and repeatedly strengthened the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.”
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”
“My achievements would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of many members of my staff through the years. I thank them for their efforts on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus and the people of Illinois. I also want to thank the many volunteers and supporters who worked on behalf of the residents of the 22nd District. It is with the collective support of many that we have made Illinois a bastion of Democratic values.
“I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”
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