Closed-door huddles on Madigan successor stretch into fourth day today — Welch within 10 votes of magic number

The General Assembly worked until shortly before 6:30 a.m. Wednesday debating and voting on a flurry of final bills for the lame-duck session. House Democrats planned to meet again behind closed doors Wednesday morning in an effort to decide on a speaker to succeed Mike Madigan as well as vote on any final bills.

SHARE Closed-door huddles on Madigan successor stretch into fourth day today — Welch within 10 votes of magic number
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Sun-Times Media

SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch gathered crucial support in his bid to be the next speaker of the Illinois House on Tuesday, picking up backing from the Latinx Caucus and seeing two of his rivals exit the race.

In a vote late Tuesday, 50 House Democrats voted for Welch for speaker, and 15 chose downstate state Rep. Jay Hoffman, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times. Another eight voted present.

After the state House and Senate worked until shortly before 6:30 a.m. Wednesday debating and voting on a flurry of final bills for the lame-duck session, House Democrats planned to meet again behind closed doors Wednesday morning in an effort to decide on a speaker to succeed Mike Madigan as well as vote on any final bills.

It all comes just hours before the newly elected General Assembly is to be sworn in at noon.

Sixty votes are needed to become speaker — a crucial threshold that decades-long incumbent Madigan could not meet, a signal of the Southwest Side Democrat’s waning power.

The support for Welch from Hispanic legislators comes a day after the Black Caucus chose the Hillside Democrat as its candidate, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Three sources — one of them within the House Latinx Caucus — confirmed the decision.

House Speaker Mike Madigan listens during the lame-duck session for the Illinois House of Representatives held at the Bank of Springfield Center on Monday.

House Speaker Mike Madigan listens as members on the Republican side of the aisle ask questions of the process for picking a new Speaker of the House during the lame-duck session for the Illinois House of Representatives held at the Bank of Springfield Center on Monday.

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Welch only entered the race on Monday, after Madigan’s stunning decision to suspend his own campaign kicked off a series of fast-moving developments.

Tuesday saw Hoffman of Swansea join the fray, and two other candidates drop out — state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego and state Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago.

“With additional individuals entering this race yesterday, it is clear that I do not have a path to 60 votes — but I am encouraged and energized by the fact that the caucus has a real choice in candidates for Speaker for the first time in 38 years,” Kifowit said in a statement.

Williams dropped out soon after, when it became apparent she also lacked the votes.

“I am proud of what we accomplished and the steps we took to begin a new chapter in the Illinois House,” the North Side Democrat said. “We made history.”

But if he can pull it off, Welch could be the one to make history.

If Welch is able to win over another ten Democrats, he would be the first African American to lead the chamber in Illinois history.

The Hillside legislator’s bid picked up added momentum Tuesday with news he had won backing from the nine Hispanic Democrats in the Latinx Caucus.

Co-Chair of the caucus, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 22-member House Black Caucus chose Welch as its candidate for speaker on Monday. A source within the Black Caucus said Welch would have Madigan’s backing.

State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez in January of 2018.

State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez in January of 2018.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

But Madigan’s spokesman denied that.

Reached for comment late Monday, Steve Brown said the veteran speaker isn’t “taking any position on any of the candidates who’ve either been announced or whose names have been mentioned in the media.”

The repositioning of the blocs follows Madigan falling nine votes short of receiving the 60 needed to secure another term in a closed-door meeting Sunday.

State Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit, left; state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, center, and state Rep. Ann Williams, right.

State Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit, left; state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, center, and state Rep. Ann Williams, right.

Rich Hein; Rich Hein; Erin Brown/Sun-Times file.

On Sunday, Williams received 18 votes to Kifowit’s three, according to sources in the room.

Kifowit was the first Democrat to enter the race, back in October.

Democratic Caucus Chair Kathleen Willis dropped out of the race Sunday and threw her support to Williams, sources told the Sun-Times.

Hoffman was the last to enter the race on Tuesday.

Democratic state Representatives Jay Hoffman of Swansea and William Davis of East Hazel Crest in 2011.

Democratic state Representatives Jay Hoffman of Swansea and William Davis of East Hazel Crest confer on the House floor in 2011.

Seth Perlman/AP file.

Madigan, 78, who is also chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, has been battered by the ongoing federal investigation of the ComEd influence-buying scandal in Springfield. Madigan has been implicated but not charged in the investigation.

And even as he suspended his campaign on Monday, Madigan took pains to assure members of his caucus that he was not dropping out of the race.

“This is not a withdrawal,” Madigan said in terse statement issued Monday morning. “I have suspended my campaign for Speaker.”

But the federal probe had increasingly complicated his path to another term as speaker, a position he’s held for all but two years since 1983 — longer than any other statehouse speaker in the nation.

ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility. Four allies of the speaker — including longtime confidant Michael McClain — were indicted in November.

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