Pritzker, Durbin call for Michael Madigan to step down as top Illinois Democrat
CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that he agreed with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan should no longer be the leader of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
The outcome of Tuesday’s election, on several fronts, wasn’t good news for Madigan, D-Chicago, and the party he controls. Voters rejected a progressive income tax amendment supported by Madigan, Pritzker and other top Democrats, booted a Madigan-backed Illinois Supreme Court justice, and handed several Illinois House seats to Republicans.
Madigan is the only state House Speaker who is also the chairman of a state’s major political party, a nexus of power that allows him to direct campaign dollars to political allies and control what legislation moves through the Illinois House.
Madigan has been implicated in a nearly decade-long bribery and patronage scheme. Exelon subsidiary ComEd admitted paying lobbyists and others for jobs that required little or no work to curry favor with Madigan. The utility told a House committee investigating the speaker that the company paid $1.3 million in bribes to Madigan allies to influence the speaker. Madigan hasn’t been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.
Durbin, D-Springfield, told WTTW Wednesday that the Democratic party “paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party.”
“Candidates who had little or no connection with him whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption and so forth and so on,” Durbin said. “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.”
Pritzker said Thursday he agreed with Durbin.
“I agree with Sen. Durbin,” Pritzker said. “Opponents were able to tap into voters’ concerns about corruption and their lack of trust in government. There are real challenges there.
“The Republicans and the billionaires that sided with them were effectively able to use the Speaker as their foil and that hurt our ability, our state’s ability