CHICAGO (CBS) — After months of being under fire for his connection to ComEd bribery scandal and growing calls for him to step down, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said he will not campaign for Speaker of the House, a position he has held for decades.
In a statement, Madigan said “This is not a withdrawal. I have suspended my campaign for Speaker. 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. The House Democratic Caucus can work to find someone, other than me, to get 60 votes for Speaker.”
According to published reports, on Sunday the House Democratic Caucus held their first closed-door vote for speaker. Madigan got 51 votes, Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) got 18 votes, and Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) got 3 votes. Another declared candidate, Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison), dropped out of the race and endorsed Williams. A candidate for speaker needs 60 votes to win.
Madigan has been Speaker for all but two years since 1983.
House Democrats are expected to meet as a caucus again on Monday for a second vote on the next speaker.
The full House will vote for speaker after the new Illinois General Assembly is sworn in on Wednesday.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) accused Madigan of trying to “create uncertainty and misdirection” ahead of Wednesday’s House vote on speaker.
“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,” Durkin said.
Durkin also is running for speaker and has said he has the votes of all 45 House Republicans, but would need at least 15 Democrats to cross party lines to win, which would likely prove an insurmountable task.
By suspending his campaign rather than withdrawing entirely, Madigan leaves the door open to rejoin the race for speaker if another candidate can’t get the 60 votes needed.
Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday afternoon said he’s committed to working with who ever is elected speaker.
Kifowit announced in October that she would be challenging Madigan for the speakership. Williams had announced her candidacy last week.
“I will lead the House Democratic Caucus collaboratively – with integrity, open communication, and respect for the voices of all Illinoisans,” Williams said in a statement.
With Madigan suspending his campaign, a coalition of women’s groups that on Sunday had called on House Democrats to vote for a female speaker has said the next speaker should be someone who has supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and two recent pieces of abortion rights legislation in Illinois — a 2017 measure expanding abortion coverage for women on Medicaid or state insurance plans; and the 2019 Reproductive Health Act, which states women have the “fundamental right” to have an abortion. The groups also are demanding the next speaker plan to support repealing the Parental Notification Act, which requires minors to tell a parent or a judge before having an abortion
“We cannot go backwards to protecting the rights of women and girls in Illinois,” said a statement from the groups Illinois Democratic Women, Illinois NOW, She Votes Illinois, We Will, Indivisible Illinois, Chicago NOW, Democratic Women of McDonough County, Lake County Democratic Women, Indivisible IL9, and Vote Mama.
While the Black Caucus and Latino Caucus both have endorsed Madigan for another term as speaker, at least 19 House Democrats — including Williams, Kifowit, and Willis — have publicly said they will not vote for Madigan. Three others joined that group of 19 on Sunday in voting for someone other than Madigan as speaker.
With 73 Democrats set to be sworn in for the next Illinois General Assembly this week, that means neither Madigan nor any of his three challengers currently has the 60 votes needed to win the speaker’s gavel.
Madigan has been under fire for months over the sweeping ComEd bribery scandal. Last July, federal prosecutors accused ComEd of a yearslong bribery scheme that sought to curry Madigan’s favor in advancing legislation relaxing state regulation of ComEd’s rates by directing $1.3 million in payments to the speaker’s associates. ComEd acknowledged it stood to benefit by more than $150 million from that legislation.
ComEd has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the feds, and has agreed to pay a $200 million fine, enact a number of reforms, and cooperate with investigators in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges in 2023 if ComEd lives up to its obligations.
In November, longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker, and former lobbyist Jay Doherty were charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records. They have pleaded not guilty. That followed the September guilty plea by a former ComEd vice president, Fidel Marquez.
Madigan, 78, has not been charged with a crime, and has denied any wrongdoing.
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