By John O'Connor, The Associated Press on January 11, 2021.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday he would suspend his campaign for a 19th term in the leadership post amid fading support from fellow Democrats, largely because of a federal bribery investigation that’s implicated him.
Madigan, the longest-serving leader of a legislative body in U.S. history, issued a statement that began, “This is not a withdrawal.” But the announcement comes as he has been unable to get a majority of votes from his caucus to remain speaker.
The statement urged House Democrats to “work to find someone, other than me, to get 60 votes for speaker.”
“As I have said many times in the past, I have always put the best interest of the House Democratic Caucus and our members first,” Madigan said.
The 78-year-old Chicago Democrat, this week marks the 50th anniversary of his first inauguration to the House. He was elected speaker in 1983 and has won subsequent two-year terms since, with the exception of 1995, when Republican seized control of the chamber, but relinquished it again to Madigan in 1997.
Madigan became longest-serving speaker of any state or federal legislative body on Aug. 5, 2017. He topped South Carolina Speaker Solomon Blatt’s record of 11,893 days.
For much of the past three decades, he has had an iron-grip control on Democrats by taking over as state party chairman a quarter-century ago.
But his popularity has faded since 2017, when he was criticized for his management in a series of #MeToo revelations of sexual harassment and bullying by lawmakers and his chief of staff of 25 years. Last summer, he was identified in a Justice Department investigation as the beneficiary of a yearslong bribery venture involving ComEd. It has thus far yielded a $200 million fine on the utility giant, a ComEd executive’s guilty plea and indictments of four others, including Madigan’s closest confidante.
Madigan has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing. But 19 House Democrats had stated they would not support him for speaker for the 102nd General Assembly, which begins Wednesday, and in a caucus vote Sunday, his support fell short of the 60 votes needed for his retention.