Claims against speaker may have hurt Democrats in the election
By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The combination of the COVID-19 resurgence and a divisive election and its aftermath have stirred up Illinois politics to a new level. For one thing, the Legislature has called off its fall veto session because of the pandemic.
“This is not the time to physically bring together hundreds of people from all around the state,” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
The session, to deal with any vetoed legislation, was to be held Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3. This year, there had been no vetoes, in part because the pandemic limited the regular session to four days in May.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus had hoped to use the veto session to push its agenda of racial justice and equity reforms, but its chair, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightfoot, said those issues would have to wait for safer conditions. “While we will not be able to pass legislation as soon as we hoped, the urgency to bring an end to systemic racism remains,” she said.
MADIGAN THE ISSUE
Following the election, Illinois politicians have turned to the future of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also the state Democratic chairman, with Republicans and some Democrats calling for an end to his tenure and other Democrats supporting him following ethics allegations stemming from a bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison.
Madigan maintains he has done nothing wrong. A House committee formed to investigate says it is waiting for Com-Ed to produce requested documents.
Both Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have said the claims involving Madigan were part of the reason many Democrats other than President-elect Joe Biden ran poorly in the Nov. 3 election in Illinois.
“All across the state, and the advertising told the story, we paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party,” Durbin said in an interview with WTTW television in Chicago.
“Candidates who had little or no connection with him whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption… It was really disconcerting to see the price that we paid on that. I hope he takes that to heart and understands that his presence as chairman of our party is not helping.”
Madigan said he intends to stay on as chairman and as speaker. “I am proud of my record electing Democrats who support workers and families and represent the diversity of our state,” he said.
AFL-CIO STEPS IN
The Illinois AFL-CIO continues its support of Madigan for both posts.
“Through all the challenges and threats that working families in Illinois have faced over the past years, Speaker Mike Madigan has been a firm ally in defense of our rights, our economic security and the well-being of our families and our communities,” President Tim Drea said.
“That’s why the Illinois AFL-CIO strongly supports Michael Madigan’s continued leadership as Illinois House Speaker and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.”
Drea said it is a question of unity.
“Although we are many, the bedrock principal of the Labor Movement is solidarity. We are stronger together,” he said, citing Democrats’ and Labor’s success at defeating former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-union agenda. “The foes of working families have a different approach. They thrive on discord. Because they know that our power rests in remaining united, they want to divide us and turn us against each other.”
Democrats continue to hold veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate. The House will vote to elect its Speaker in January.