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House Speaker Michael Madigan: ‘I have no plans to resign’ after polling Democrats to gauge support amid ComEd bribery scandal

House Speaker Michael Madigan: ‘I have no plans to resign’ after polling Democrats to gauge support amid ComEd bribery scandal

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Michael Madigan

Michael Madigan

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, implicated in a federal bribery and influence scandal involving ComEd, said Thursday he has “no plans to resign” after polling his members.

“I understand that the last couple of weeks have been difficult for our caucus and party, and I have had many candid conversations with members of the Democratic caucus on this matter. The feedback is positive and demonstrates continued support for me and my leadership roles,” Madigan said in a statement issued Thursday night. “I have no plans to resign.”

Madigan denied any wrongdoing, saying “I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives and any claim otherwise is unfounded.”

Madigan has faced growing calls to step down from his legislative post, as well as his chairmanship of the state Democratic Party, after ComEd paid a $200 million fine and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors who accused the utility of a “yearslong” scheme to provide jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan allies to win favor with the speaker.

Madigan, described by federal prosecutors as “Public Official A,” has not been charged with any wrongdoing and a spokeswoman said the speaker “has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here.”

Madigan is the nation’s longest-serving statehouse speaker, holding the post since 1983 with the exception of two years in the mid-1990s when the GOP took control.

The sources, two members of Madigan’s 73-member House majority, said the 78-year-old speaker was asking members of his caucus if they agreed with two Democrats, state Reps. Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn and Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, who have asked Madigan to step down from his governmental post. Howard also said Madigan should resign as state Democratic chair.

The sources asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly about Madigan.

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Costa Howard and Kifowit symbolize the concerns of elected Democrats in what had traditionally been suburban and exurban Republican areas who feel they may be vulnerable politically due to the controversy surrounding Madigan.

Costa Howard, a freshman, is in a Nov. 3 rematch against former Republican state Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, whom she defeated to win office in 2018. Breen has repeatedly criticized Costa Howard for backing Madigan for speaker and for taking campaign money from him.

Kifowit, elected in 2013, does not have a Republican opponent.

Later Thursday, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, joined in the call for Madigan to step down from his governmental and party leadership posts.

“I cannot pretend that we have another minute to wait and see or look the other way and hope for the best. The stakes are too high,” said Cassidy, citing how the Madigan controversy could have a negative impact on voters considering a change to a graduated rate state income tax, which she supports.

“Speaker Madigan must step down from his leadership roles, both in the House and in our party,” said Cassidy, who has long been critical of how Madigan wields his power.

The speaker said he’s focused on the effort to defeat Republican President Donald Trump in November and expand Democratic representation statewide.

The personal polling by Madigan indicated the speaker, long known as Illinois’ most powerful politician, was feeling some heat after more Democrats, primarily women, have been calling for the speaker’s departure from his governmental post, his party chairmanship, or both.

Earlier Thursday, state Sen. Iris Martinez of Chicago, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, restated her call for Madigan to step down as party chairman. Martinez first called for Madigan’s ouster as Democrats dealt with issues of sexual harassment in the speaker’s governmental and political office.

“Though Madigan again claims he did nothing wrong, his many controversies are too distracting for him to remain in leadership,” Martinez said.

“Defeating Donald Trump is a priority matter for all Democrats. Every day that Madigan remains chairman … is another day we are focused on Madigan’s controversies instead of our critical electoral contests,” she said.

Martinez urged other members of the state Democratic Party to call for Madigan’s resignation and to convene the state central committee in a special meeting to elect a new chair.

“Our party and our state deserve better,” she said.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said Madigan should resign if the allegations involving him are proven true.

Republicans, who have long sought to use Madigan against Democrats and have blamed him for the state’s ills, have also stepped up calls for the veteran Democrat’s resignation.

Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin on Thursday called on Madigan to resign immediately, modifying an earlier position that the speaker needed to step down if the allegations surrounding him were true.

“It is abundantly clear that Michael J. Madigan is unable to execute his responsibilities as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as state representative for the 22nd House District,” Durkin said in a statement.

“I call for the immediate resignation of Speaker Madigan from the Illinois House of Representatives and will be filing a resolution to have the House chamber vote on a new speaker immediately,” he said.

Durkin said the details outlined by federal prosecutors against ComEd “are a disgrace of the highest level to the citizens of Illinois and to the institution of which we serve, the Illinois House of Representatives.”

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