Protests greet Madigan's controversial re-election as House speaker
In one of the first votes by the newly sworn-in Illinois House, long-serving House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) was re-elected to a 17th term in that seat.
The re-election took place despite exceptionally loud calls for it not to happen, some of which came from interesting quarters. For one, former state Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale) told a WQAD News 8 reporter that Madigan has consistently put the brakes on legislative reforms, such as redistricting, and putting Madigan back in the chair will mean more of the same.
"As long as you have the speaker controlling what gets out of the rules (committee) for legislation, I don't see it coming anywhere close to hitting the floor," Smiddy said in the news report published Jan. 2.
According to Smiddy, the battle of the budget -- which the state has been without for about two years -- has amounted to a personal quarrel between Madigan and Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.
"And it's now an ego trip on who's going to win, the governor or the speaker," he said.
Smiddy soundly lost his re-election bid for the 71st District seat to his Republican challenger, Savanna Mayor Tony McCombie, who took almost 63 percent of the district vote.
Smiddy's was not the only voice of dissent over giving Madigan another term as House speaker. Even before November's general election, there were strong calls opposing Madigan's re-election. In an Oct. 21 op-ed piece, the Chicago Tribune editorial board urged Illinois to break up with the speaker.
The Illinois Republican Party sent out mailers and news releases and set up the website Bossmadigan.com to reach out to voters and attract the eye of the very few Democrats likely to break ranks and vote against Madigan.
The Illinois Policy Institute organized a protest Jan. 11, the day the 100th Illinois General Assembly was sworn in, following the two day lame-duck session.
"The Democratic Party has held a majority in the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983," the Illinois Policy Institute stated in a news release. "They can select anyone to be the House speaker. But they choose Madigan every time."
All but one House Democrat delivered up a vote to give Madigan his 17th term as Illinois House speaker. The lone opponent was state Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), who voted "present" that day, though he also admitted to fearing retribution.
"I am confident that my vote represents the view of the vast majority of my constituents; in that respect, the decision was easy," Drury said in a statement he issued the same day as his vote. "Unfortunately, I have learned that what is popular with constituents does not always align with what is popular in Springfield. In the end, I chose the public over politicians."
He has every reason to be concerned, according to a Chicago Tribune editorial published Jan. 16.
"Madigan has been known to freeze out lawmakers who oppose him publicly," the editorial said. "They don't get bills passed. They don't get extras for their districts. They don't get as much staff or legal help. They don't get plum committee assignments. Sometimes Madigan recruits opponents to run against them. We'll see what happens with Drury, a former federal prosecutor who represents an independent-leaning North Shore district."