Nineteen Illinois House Democrats who broke with former Speaker Mike Madigan in November 2020 after a corruption scandal erupted said the powerful Chicagoan’s indictment March 2 was “a watershed moment for our state.”
The move signaled a shift from Madigan’s iron control of the House after about four decades. In January 2021, Madigan announced he was stepping down as speaker and on March 2, federal prosecutors announced charges against the 79-year-old in a racketeering and bribery plot.
“Thirteen months ago, we 19 Democrats made clear to our colleagues that we would not support Michael Madigan for speaker,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We knew that our chamber, our state and our party deserved better leadership and the unfolding corruption scandal would only continue to erode public confidence.
“This is a watershed moment for our state that reminds us of the work ahead as the former speaker’s case makes its way through the legal system. We remain grateful to the people who joined us in bringing historic change to our party and our chamber.
“The possibility that this day was coming and would distract us from our work on behalf of the people we serve was top of mind for many of us as we took this position, even as we faced intense pressure to maintain the status quo.”
On Jan. 13, 2021, a majority of representatives voted to install Rep. Chris Welch as the first Black speaker in Illinois. The party rupture had its roots in summer 2020 when utility giant ComEd admitted to bribery and colluding with a state official, identified as the speaker, to get laws enabling rate hikes passed in exchange for hiring and awarding contracts to Madigan cronies, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois said.
The 19 Democratic state representatives are Jonathan Carroll, Kelly Cassidy, Deb Conroy, Terra Costa Howard, Margaret Croke, Eva Dina Delgado, Daniel Didech, Robyn Gabel, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Will Guzzardi, Stephanie Kifowit, Lindsey LaPointe, Anna Moeller, Bob Morgan, Anne Stava-Murray, Maurice West, Ann Williams, Kathleen Willis and Sam Yingling.
Meanwhile, Republicans were quick to react. “The Illinois Republican Party is committed to exposing and defeating every last Democrat still around that accepted Madigan’s money, voted Madigan’s way, or defended him as the leader of their party,” Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy said in a statement.