SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced Thursday that he would resign from his seat at the end of the month, prompting a cascade of reactions from throughout the state.
The Chicago Democrat was the longest-tenured leader of any legislative body in America before he announced in January that he wouldn’t seek re-election.
“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 said in a statement.
Madigan’s tenure ended under a cloud of harassment accusations from women by some of his closest lieutenants. Some of whom say they faced retaliation from working in politics after speaking up about his operation’s treatment of women.
Madigan’s exit comes amid a corruption investigation conducted by outgoing U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. Madigan is widely thought to be “Public Official A” in a number of statements and indictments of others involving a patronage scheme conducted on behalf of ComEd. Madigan asserts his innocence and has yet to be charged.
Newly minted House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, praised Madigan’s 50 years of service in the chamber.
“I thank the former Speaker for his sincere and meaningful contributions to our state,” he said. “Under him, we’ve had strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield. 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.”
Welch said those laws gave underserved populations a new sense of hope, but it was their responsibility to carry them forward.
“I truly appreciate his contributions and I join Illinoisans across the state in wishing him well,” Welch said.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin’s office said the news “comes as no surprise” and that he’s been looking forward to it.
“I urge the Democrats in both Chambers and the Governor to reflect on how we can use this opportunity to improve Illinois,” he said. “Rep. Madigan’s autocratic rule over the decades has not made Illinois a more prosperous nor competitive state. Our state is in shambles – financially, structurally and ethically. New ideas and sincere collaboration between the parties is the only pathway forward.”
The state GOP noted that Madigan still has a hand in state politics.
“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,” Chairman Don Tracy said. “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.”
Madigan, long seen as an ally to organized labor, received praise from union leaders for his legacy.
“The Illinois AFL-CIO and all of organized labor in Illinois wish to sincerely thank Michael J. Madigan for his indelible impact on Illinois public policy and politics, and his historic legacy of accomplishments for working families,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea said. “For the past 50 years, Michael J. Madigan has had unprecedented influence on our legislative process. Time after time, he has put the interests of working men and women first, even under dire circumstances and serious threats.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who last year urged Madigan to answer questions about the ComEd bribery scandal or resign, also offered praise for Madigan’s years in the General Assembly.
“Over his decades in office, he shepherded through some of the most consequential changes to our state: bringing about the legalization of gay marriage, fighting on the frontlines for workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding access to voting and protecting women’s reproductive rights,” the governor said in a statement. “The people of Illinois have much to be grateful for thanks to his dedicated public service, and the many sacrifices he and his family made to make a difference in our lives. I know how dearly he loves his wife Shirley, their children and grandchildren, and I hope that in this next chapter, his family can begin to make up for lost time.”
The free market Illinois Policy Institute sees Madigan’s tenure differently.
“During Madigan’s 36 years as speaker, Illinois’ finances deteriorated from a perfect credit rating and just under $6 billion in unfunded pension debt to the lowest credit rating in the nation and over $144 billion in pension debt,” the institute said in a news release. “The state saw 1,978 public corruption convictions since Madigan first became speaker, averaging over one per week. That is the most convictions per capita among the top 10 most populous states between 1983 and 2018, according to Department of Justice data.”
The institute also noted that Illinois has seen seven consecutive years of population loss under Madigan.
“Former Speaker Madigan cut his teeth in the Daley political machine, and followed in the footsteps of his political mentors to the detriment of Illinois – accumulating a massive political war chest and building an unmatched patronage army, all financed by the worst state and local debt crisis in the nation,” Austin Berg, vice president of marketing at the Illinois Policy Institute, said in a statement. “It’s time to fix the corrupt, failed institutions that fueled Madigan’s unprecedented accumulation of power.”