South Side legislator named interim director of state Democratic Party

SHARE South Side legislator named interim director of state Democratic Party

Rep. Christian Mitchell in 2016. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A South Side lawmaker will serve as the interim executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois as the party tries to take back control of the governor’s office — and to step away from a #MeToo scandal that led to the ousting of Tim Mapes last month.

Named as Mapes’ successor on Tuesday, state Rep. Christian Mitchell says he’ll first launch a $1 million voter registration initiative in partnership with Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign. Mitchell told the Sun-Times he is not applying for the permanent position, but will stay on the job through the election and until a new director is in place.

Mitchell’s first step is designed to show the party will prioritize winning down-ballot races throughout the state. And Mitchell will become the first African-American to serve in that role.

“This $1 million initiative will help us reach voters in districts where a strong Democratic turnout from new or unregistered voters could flip seats and lead Democrats to victory up and down the ballot,” Mitchell said in a statement. “We’re going to win in November and move our communities forward. I’m so proud to help lead that fight.”

The search committee’s announcement came weeks after Mike Madigan, chairman of the state party and the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S. quickly assembled a search committee comprised of Democratic women to select a replacement for Mapes.

Mapes last month 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. Mapes quick departure marks the closest the #MeToo movement has inched to Madigan.

Madigan last month said the committee will find a candidate “who reflects our commitment to a strong statewide party and a better future for all.”

Mitchell — who previously worked for President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s campaigns — became the youngest member of the Illinois House of Representatives in 2012, at the age of 25.

Mitchell represents the 26th District, which covers part of the Near North Side, the Loop and several South Side neighborhoods, including South Shore and Hyde Park.

Alaina Hampton, who in February outlined accusations against Madigan aide Kevin Quinn — a younger brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) — has said she’s vying for the executive director post. And 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.

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