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Madigan ouster sought

Pritzker, senators lead party effort

By Tim Hadac

and Capitol News Illinois staff

November 13, 2020

High-ranking Democrats including Gov. JB Pritzker are calling on Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-22nd) to step down, at least as the chair of the state’s Democratic Party.

The once-unthinkable move came last week in the wake of several Democratic setbacks that some pinned on what they said is voter dissatisfaction with Madigan, statewide party chief since 1998Ñalthough his sway over the party goes back years before that.

The first to openly call for Madigan’s replacement after the election was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who won re-election to a fifth term on Nov. 3.

“Well I can tell you, all across our state, and the advertising told the story, we paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party,” Durbin said during a Nov. 4 interview on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program. “Candidates who had little or no connection with him whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption, and so forth and so on. It was really disconcerting to see the price that we paid on that. I hope he takes that to heart and understands that his presence as chairman of our party has not helped.”

The next day, Pritzker was asked to respond to those comments during his daily COVID-19 briefing.

“Look, I agree with Sen. Durbin that, you know, opponents were able to tap into voters’ concerns about corruption and their lack of trust in government,” the governor said. “There are real challenges there.”

Asked specifically whether he agreed with Durbin that the Democratic Party of Illinois needs new leadership, Pritzker replied, “Yes.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth also issued a statement to the State Journal-Register, calling for Madigan to step aside both as speaker and party chairman.

Madigan, meanwhile, issued a statement on Nov. 5 indicating he has no plans to step aside.

“I am proud of my record electing Democrats who support workers and families and represent the diversity of our state,” he said in the statement. “Together, we have successfully advanced progressive policies that have made Illinois a strong Democratic state with supermajorities in the legislature. Illinois is the anchor in the ‘blue wall’ that has been reconstructed in the Midwest, and I look forward to continuing our fight for working families as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.”

Fair Tax failure stoked anger

Much of Pritzker’s ire was said to be caused by the failure at the polls of his proposed “Fair Tax” graduated income tax constitutional amendment.

Pritzker’s marquee policy proposal was projected to bring in more than $3 billion annually to state coffers.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, voters had rejected the amendment by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. The Associated Press called the race for the “No” camp, as a large number of outstanding mail ballots was almost certainly not enough to make up for the deficit of approximately 500,000 votes.

The failure of the amendment marks the end of a fight led by Pritzker which began legislatively in April 2019 and even before that politically, when Pritzker was running for governor in 2017 and 2018.

The governor spent $58 million of his own personal fortune to promote the amendment, while billionaire Ken Griffin, the state’s wealthiest person and founder of the hedge fund Citadel, dropped more than $53 million into an effort to defeat the tax change.

Democrats also grumbled about the failure of Justice Thomas Kilbride to win retentionÑmarking the first time since Illinois adopted judicial retention elections in 1964 that an Illinois Supreme Court justice lost a retention bid to stay on the state’s highest court.

Kilbride is part of the 4-3 Democratic majority on the seven-person Supreme Court. He represents the 3rd Judicial District, which includes 21 counties across north-central Illinois. Democratic justices have maintained a majority on the Illinois Supreme Court since 1969.

Kilbride needed at least 60% of the “Yes” vote in his district, but earned just 56.4% of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Adding to the sting for some Democrats was the performance of GOP candidates across the state.

“I’m going to give ourselves an A because before Tuesday, the House Republicans were expected to lose up to 11 seats. And right now, we were at a net gain of two,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said during a news conference on Nov. 4. “We were outspent five-to-one by Speaker Madigan and we still prevailed.”

The overall number of flipped seats could change, however, as some races remained close with hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes still outstanding statewide. In Illinois, any mail ballot postmarked by Election Day will be counted if received by the election authority by Nov. 17. The state board of elections is scheduled to certify final results on Dec. 4.

Reaction mixed locally

Reaction was mixed among shoppers outside the ALDI at Archer and Harlem last Sunday.

“It’s ironic, I guess, but it looks like the Democrats will succeed in doing what Republicans never have gotten done: toss Mike Madigan out,” said Diego Valadez. “Politics is one strange business. But, live by the sword and die by the sword, I guess.”

Ken Connors said Pritzker “ought to be pretty damned ashamed of himself. Mike Madigan makes him governor, and this is the thanks he gets, a knife in the back? It’s disgusting.”

Jeanine Banasiak said she thinks “Madigan should step aside for the good of the party. It’s not good to have professional politicians. We need more citizens to serve and lead.”

Her friend, Nancy Micus, thinks Madigan should step down now “before all this ComEd stuff hits the fan. Then the predicament will be even worse.”

The governor “shouldn’t have such a thin skin,” said Sergio Hermosillo. “If he wants to know why his Fair Tax thing lost, maybe he should go buy a mirror. The fact is, people don’t trust him. That’s not Mike Madigan’s fault.”

Ed Vronka said he wasn’t “thinking about state politics right now. I’m too busy rejoicing over the end of the Trump era. I drove downtown the other night, and it was like one big, happy party. That’s the only party I care about right now.”

(Editor’s Note: More news coverage and photos in the print edition of the Greater Southwest News-Herald, available on local newsstands. Or better yet, call 708-496-0265 during weekday business hours and order convenient home delivery for about 50 cents a week.)

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