Speaker Welch to close Madigan’s House campaign fund: ‘It won’t just be the Chris Welch Show’

The speaker said the new committee will be a lot more inclusive and will have much more input from Democratic members, because “we’re going to be working together to raise money.

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Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, answers questions from the media following a meeting of the Special Investigating Committee II at the Illinois Capitol Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. The committee is looking into House Speaker Michael Madigan’s role in a bribery scandal involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool) ORG XMIT: ILSPR106

Ted Schurter, AP Photos

Trying to set himself apart from his predecessor, state House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch is shutting down one of the chief campaign funds Mike Madigan relied on for decades to preserve his House majority and top leadership spot.

In its place, Welch is establishing the Democrats for the Illinois House committee, which will also focus on electing Democrats to the House. The remaining funds from the Madigan-era Democratic Majority campaign fund, a total of $867,741.34, will be transferred over to that new account.

The speaker said the new committee will be more inclusive and will include more input from Democratic members, because “we’re going to be working together to raise money.

“It won’t just be the Chris Welch Show, there will be other Democrats out there helping me raise money on behalf of our caucus, this will be a total team effort,” Welch said. “It’s important that we work together, in collaboration and in partnership. When we work together we can achieve some great things.”

A committee of Democrats will oversee the fundraising efforts.

Members of Welch’s House leadership team will steer that panel. State Representatives Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria and Jay Hoffman of Collinsville, who are assistant majority leaders in the House, will serve as chair and vice chair of the fundraising efforts.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, left, of Collinsville; State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria, right.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, left, of Collinsville in 2008; State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria, right in undated photo.

AP file; Facebook.

Rounding out the committee’s ranks will be state Representatives Carol Ammons of Urbana; Kam Buckner, Theresa Mah, Delia Ramirezand Mike Zalewski, all of Chicago; Bob Morgan of Highwood; and Deb. Conroy of Villa Park.

Welch said creating the new committee is something he promised during his campaign for the speakership because “I think it’s important that we all have a fresh start.”

“As new leaders come on board, we’re making changes across the party ... It’s a new day, it’s a new era, it’s a new approach,” Welch said.

“I think it’s important when a new leader comes into a position as important as this one that we don’t just ponder about it being a new beginning and a fresh start, we take action, and I believe that this was one of the actions we are taking or have taken to show that this is a fresh start. It’s also a promise that I made to my caucus members that we’re going to do things in a different way.”

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, in January, shortly before Welch was elected speaker.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, in January, shortly before Welch was elected speaker.

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

A fresh committee is a fresh beginning, Welch said when asked about why he chose to create a new fund instead of just renaming the old one.

The new start will allow Welch and the House Democrats he now leads to distance themselves from Madigan, who has the cloud of a federal investigation looming over him after federal prosecutors brought a $1.3 million bribery case against ComEd that implicated the former speaker last July.

Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but the ComEd scandal was often cited by Democratic legislators who said they wouldn’t vote for Madigan to remain speaker, the position he’d held for nearly 40 years and failed to retain in January. Welch jumped into the race not long after Madigan suspended his campaign and the new speaker took on the role of chair for the Democratic Majority fund.

Madigan later relinquished his House seat and his role as head of the state’s Democratic Party. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly was chosen to serve out the rest of Madigan’s term as state party chair.

Welch said with himself as the new speaker — the first in decades — and Kelly as the new chair, this presents an “exciting time” for Democrats.

“We’re going to take ownership in the Democrats for the Illinois House — it’s something we should see as a point of pride, we’re going to be proud of what this committee does and getting Democrats elected across the state,” Welch said. “I think it’s indicative of a true fresh start.”

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