She’s taken down one of Mike Madigan’s longtime political operatives, questioned the powerful House speaker’s actions in a federal lawsuit that also alleged retaliation, and for months criticized the Southwest Side Democrat’s handling of sexual harassment claims.
And now political consultant Alaina Hampton is interested in taking a look at her “dream job:” the suddenly vacant post of executive director for the Democratic Party of Illinois, which Madigan controls.
In a dizzying and swift fall — and the closest the #MeToo movement has inched to Madigan — Tim Mapes last week announced his resignation as executive director of the party, chief-of-staff to Madigan and clerk of the Illinois House just hours after Sherri Garrett, a longtime speaker’s office employee, went public with what she called “harassment” and “bullying” allegations.
And Madigan — who serves as chairman of the state party and the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S. — on Friday moved quickly to announce that a search committee comprised of Democratic women would select Mapes’ replacement. While Mapes mostly operated in a behind-the-scenes role as executive director, his replacement could send a huge message to the party that it’s open to change.
In his statement, Madigan said he knows the committee will find a candidate “who reflects our commitment to a strong statewide party and a better future for all.”
Hampton thinks that future could include her.
“Running DPI [the Democratic Party of Illinois] has been a dream of mine throughout my entire career,” Hampton told the Sun-Times.
Hampton in February outlined accusations against Madigan aide Kevin Quinn — a younger brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) — claiming he sent her barrages of unwanted text messages and phone calls in pursuit of a romantic and sexual relationship.
At the time, Madigan called Hampton “a courageous woman” for bringing the allegations to his attention.
Since then, Hampton has filed a federal lawsuit against the powerful Illinois House speaker’s political committee and the state Democratic party.
She’s also been vocal about her criticism of how harassment allegations are treated, while working to actively encourage other women to come forward without the fear of retaliation.
State Rep. Litesa Wallace, who last year penned an op-ed describing a culture of sexual harassment in politics, also said she’s interested in the party job.
“I think I’d be able to bring to the role a voice that over the last years we’ve grown to see as an independent voice,” Wallace, D-Rockford said, adding she was a Hillary Clinton delegate in 2016 and helped to drum up support from Bernie Sanders voters. “I think it’s important to not just have a woman in this role but a woman who has spoken out about the issues of power, sexism and sexual harassment.”
Other names in the mix include DeShana Forney, who previously served as deputy executive director of the party, and is now senior director of government and community relations for Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.
And while rumors had swirled around Gary LaPaille, who was pushed out by Madigan after serving two four-year terms as chair in the 1990s, LaPaille told the Sun-Times he lives and works in Washington, D.C.
“Would be kind of tough to run a party from here,” he said in an email, adding “I still respect Mike Madigan and I have always told him I am willing to assist.”
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Mapes was considered a volunteer in the position and wasn’t paid but that compensation is being discussed for the new executive director. Duties include coordinating party activities, participating in national meetings, planning national conventions and working with other Democrats around the state on campaign issues.
As for timing, Brown noted he believes the committee will “work as expeditiously as possible because we’re in the middle of a campaign season.”
State Sen. Melinda Bush — who has taken an active role in the Illinois Senate on women’s issues and is a member of another statewide women’s panel Madigan created to address harassment and the political culture of the party— said the new executive director must understand the importance of “inclusion.”
Bush, D-Grayslake, said the party should “take a good look at itself and stand for the values that we have purported for a long time.”
And that “may well indeed mean that it’s time for a woman executive,” Bush said.
“This is a party that’s been run by the same group for a very long time, and it’s apparent that change is coming. Or that change is happening,” Bush said. “And we need to embrace that change.”
Meanwhile as rumbling continue about whether Madigan will weather the latest storm, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin offered his support, saying he’d never witnessed the speaker partake in locker room talk at the expense of women.
“Never. Never. Not once,” Durbin said.
Durbin noted that Madigan heeded his advice last week and formed a panel of female Democrats to choose Mapes’ successor at the state party and called the move a step in the right direction.
Madigan announced that the search committee would include the 18 elected Democratic state central committeewomen and would be jointly chaired by lieutenant governor nominee Juliana Stratton, state Sen. Iris Martinez, Cook County Clerk nominee Karen Yarbrough and state central committeewomen Jayne Mazzotti and Carol Ronen.
“I asked him to make what I consider to be a significant move to show that he gets it, that all of us our age and our circumstances get it, and he did that, so I am going to stand by and watch how this unfolds,” he said.
Durbin avoided directly answering whether Madigan resigning from his role as state party chair would be another step in the right direction.
“Well, we’re going to find out what happens from this point forward, but he gave me no indication that he plans on doing that,” Durbin said.
Contributing: Mitch Dudek