Harassment handling no big hitch to Madigan holding reins of Democratic Party

SHARE Harassment handling no big hitch to Madigan holding reins of Democratic Party
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House Speaker Mike Madigan addressing the City Club of Chicago at the University Club of Chicago in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Despite months of criticism over his handling of sexual harassment allegations in his political organization, powerful Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan appears poised to hold onto his seat as chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he “doesn’t do predictions,” but noted he wasn’t aware of any opponents throwing their names in the ring as the 36 state central committeemen and committeewomen prepare to vote for the party chair on April 23.

“Voters in the March primary elected new members of the State Central Committee, and now it is our job to choose party officials and begin planning to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in November,” Madigan said in a statement.

The only one breaking ranks with Madigan is newly elected progressive committeeman Peter Janko, who said Democrats in his McHenry-area district were “almost universal” in their desire to oust Madigan.

Before the primary, numerous Democrats called for an independent investigation of the speaker over revelations of allegedly ignored harassment complaints, with some calling for Madigan to step down from his post as party chair.

Madigan’s organization is facing a federal lawsuit from a former strategist who claims he stonewalled her complaints about barrages of text messages from a top Madigan aide. Madigan also forced out a top lobbyist accused of “inappropriate behavior.”

Under that pressure, Madigan enlisted the Democratic big guns ahead of the primary with robocalls by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, urging voters in his Southwest Side stronghold to support him as committeeman — a strong precaution for the obscure party post that has held on lock for two decades.

Madigan has led the party since 1998, and if elected to a sixth term on April 23, he would become the longest-tenured Democratic party chairman in state history.

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