The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board has publicly called for the ousting of longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), predicting that if he is not unseated, the state faces two more years of “dysfunction.”
Referencing muted discussions among legislators, the staff said the benefits would most likely outweigh the risks. Unseating the nation’s longest-serving speaker would be difficult for the Democratic Party as a whole, as well as for individuals wishing to retain their personal stake in Illinois leadership.
“But really, isn't it about time for Democratic lawmakers to be placed precisely in that tough spot, given this broken, broke state and their party's long-failed stewardship of it?” the Tribune said. “Under Madigan's reign, the state has been circling the drain for years.”
Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) have balked at working with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner to resolve the state’s formidable crises. Evidence has mounted over the years that they place less value on constituents’ comfort and rights than on their own power bases.
Schools, pensions, the state’s finances and taxes continue to suffer — along with agencies and vendors to whom the state owes money. Last week, a potential last straw emerged as U.S. Census numbers exposed a dramatic drop in Illinois’ net population, revealing that the state had the dubious distinction of registering the greatest out-migration of residents in the nation.
“So why keep supporting him, other than to milk him for campaign money every election cycle?” the Tribune said.
Assuming that all Republicans vote against Madigan on Jan. 11, it would take only nine Democrats switching their allegiance to reach the minimum number of votes to send Madigan packing. To reach that number — 60 — those Democrats who have publicly supported term limits would seem to be the most likely to break ranks. For the benefit of Tribune readers, the editors listed likely prospects and urged readers to reach out to their own jurisdictions’ legislators to add their voice, providing contact information at www.ilga.gov.
Tribune staff also provided a roster of potential swing voters, along with past indications of willingness to consider alternatives to re-electing Madigan for yet another term: state Reps. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Fran Hurley (D-Chicago), Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills), Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) and Kathleen Willis (D-Addison).
"Ultimately, my greatest concern with the speaker is the length of time he has served in that role and the consolidation of power that has permitted," Cassidy said this year.
Gabel concurred and said, "I support term limits on leadership positions because no one member should have that much power for too long."
Additionally, state Reps. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) both said they'd be open to leadership term limits.
Williams said that despite Madigan’s skill as a political strategist, his longevity and perceived leadership style have contributed to his unpopularity.
The Tribune gave lawmakers a bit of a pep talk.
“(To) anyone entertaining the idea of running or voting against Madigan, we ask: What do you have to lose except two more years of dysfunction?” said the newspaper, clarifying the crux of the message for area residents to use as a template when communicating concerns to their state lawmakers.
“Remember, you don't work for (Madigan),” the editorial board said. “You work for voters. They didn't send you to Springfield to be gutless. They sent you to do what's best for Illinois, regardless of the consequences.”