In a move not surprising to many, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Monday was re-elected as the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.
The result was overwhelmingly in Madigan’s favor; he received 35 out of 36 votes from the state central committee. Yet, the lingering question remained if he should still spearhead the party — a post he’s held since 1998. Earlier this year, the speaker was criticized for his handling of sexual harassment allegations within his staff. Several Democrats, including then-gubernatorial candidates, state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy called on the speaker to relinquish his role as the party leader.
Madigan rejected these calls and instead conducted an internal investigation of harassment claims. He released the findings to the media to say more will be done to avoid future problems.
Since then, Madigan worked to try and get the necessary committee votes. “I talked to every member about my record as the party chairman,” he said. “In general, the members of the committee were very receptive to my request that they vote for me to remain as the party chairman.” Only one committeeman voted 'no'.
Peter Janko of the state's 14th Congressional District, said he voted against Madigan’s reappointment “because our party leadership has not evolved with the fast-changing demographics of our party.” Janko said he wants more progressive ideas to be taken up by the whoever leads the state central committee.
During the vote in Springfield, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, committeeman Bill Houlihan and state Sen. Christina Castro all stood to nominate the speaker.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly said she was surprised Madigan had asked her to nominate him but was happy to support him as long as more Democrats are elected into office. “I will say in seconding the nomination, that it’s not a secret that change needs to happen. We need to be more transparent as an organization, we need to be more inclusive as an organization, and we need to make sure that we are respecting every man and woman that has anything to do with this organization, in an out.”
Kelly previously endorsed Biss as the gubernatorial candidate of her choice.
Madigan said he’s aware of the changes needed to curtail sexual harassment within the party, as well as issues of unity within the party.
“Others have said it very, very well. Now it’s the time for Democrats to come together. Now it’s the time to come together so we can elect J.B. Pritzker as the governor of the state Illinois, and make the changes in state government that need to be made so that all Illinoisans can move forward.”
While Madigan has been the state party chair for two decades, he’s served even longer as the Illinois House speaker.