Michael Madigan legislative
Rep. Michael Madigan speaks after being voted Speaker of the Illinois House for the 17th time on Wednesday, Jan. 9. (Courtesy photo, BlueRoomStream)

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — For the 18th time in the past 36 years, members of the Illinois House selected state Rep. Michael Madigan to serve as speaker, giving the Chicago Democrat broad authority over everything from committee assignments to which bills get called for a vote.

Madigan is longest-serving state legislative leader in the United States. He’s had the gavel in the House for all but two years since 1983. Madigan also has been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998, giving him control of the party’s purse strings and additional influence over fellow Democrats. I

State Rep. Chris Welch nominated Madigan for the speakership. He and others lauded Madigan’s leadership and highlighted some of the party’s policy goals and accomplishments in the last term.

“I am confident that Mike Madigan is the right person to foster the atmosphere of bipartisanship and ensure the voices of all Illinoisans are heard,” state Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) said in seconding the nomination. “It is easy to be the captain of a ship when the sea is calm. But rough seas require a steady, experienced and strong hand to guide us to a safe port. That person is Michael J. Madigan.”

Republicans nominated House Republican leader Jim Durkin for Speaker of the House.

“How can anyone expect to thrive and grow when they fear their state government’s plans for them?” state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) said in seconding Durkin’s nomination. “When your idea of helping one person in Illinois is to put a punishing burden on the back of someone else in Illinois? … [Durkin] doesn’t ostracize members for different policy views, or send people to go talk to them to change their mind. And he certainly doesn’t force-feed votes through fear of retribution or retaliation.”

Despite questions about his leadership from some members of his own party in the past year, he was elected Wednesday by a voice vote. Freshman Democratic state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, who last week accused Madigan of trying to intimidate her, voted present.

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After accepting the position, Madigan blamed outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner for the state’s dysfunction.

“On Jan. 14, 2015, I stood before you to accept my election as Speaker of the House. On that day, as part of my remarks, I pledged to work cooperatively and professionally with Gov. Rauner,” Madigan said. “That was four long years ago. Four long years of character assassination. Four long years of personal vilification. Four long years of strident negotiating positions – also known as ‘my way or the highway.’ Consequently, Illinois suffered through a three-year budget impasse.”

Madigan then listed those he said were the victims of the budget impasse, including Illinoisans who relied on state funding for autism services, breast cancer screenings, child abuse prevention and services for victims of sexual assault.

He said government works best when people work with people, a point he made several times. He also encouraged lawmakers to move forward with a new chapter in the state’s history while retaining lessons learned from the last chapter.

Stava-Murray last week said she was filing discrimination claims against Madigan after she said he sent women lawmakers to coerce her to vote for him as speaker when she said she wouldn’t during her campaign.

After the #MeToo movement erupted nationally in 2017, more than 300 women with ties to state government signed a letter demanding a change in culture that allowed rampant sexual harassment to occur under a veil of secrecy. A number of those who were accused of harassment worked for Madigan’s legislative office or his political office.

Stava-Murray said she didn’t vote for Madigan because what had happened under his watch.

“I didn’t start off saying I wasn’t going to vote for [Madigan], but the more that I talked to my constituents and then really after that #MeToo moment, I began to ask publicly that he step down from his role as [party] chair and as speaker,” the freshman Democrat said after the swearing-in ceremony in Springfield.

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Former state Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) was the only Democrat in the House who didn’t vote for Madigan to be the speaker in 2017. Drury recently said in a message to constituents that there were “no repercussions beyond childish antics” for standing up to Madigan. Drury said he didn’t get an engraved desk clock that Madigan gave to other members who voted for him.

“While he withheld gifts, I have left him with the gift of my legacy,” Drury said.

Stava-Murray said she stood by the values of the Democratic Party.

“I think dissent is patriotic,” she said. “It makes us stronger to be able to say ‘that’s OK, I respect we have a difference in opinion.’ To me, only dictators get 100 percent of the vote.”

Illinois state Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) also was again elected to Senate President Wednesday by a vote of 39-18. In his acceptance speech, he thanked Democrats for their continued confidence to lead the state’s upper chamber.

“Welcome to a new year, a new Senate and a new Illinois,” he said after being sworn in. “There can, will, and should be disagreements, but this chamber handles them with respect and responsibility.”

The coming session, Cullerton said, would require attention to creating jobs and skilled workers to fill them, added funding for infrastructure, a higher minimum wage, and other goals.

Cullerton replaced retiring Senate President Emil Jones in 2009. He has a 40-seat supermajority. In the Senate, Republicans hold 19 seats.

In a playful jab to the Republican Party’s numbers, Cullerton told them that they chose their chamber head wisely and that state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) would be a “super Minority Leader.”

Reporting by Greg Bishop and Brett Rowland

The Center Square -- formerly known as Watchdog.org and the Illinois News Network -- and their reporters represent 18 states across the United States as the taxpayers' watchdog, exposing the way government really works.

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