The hypocrisy of Illinois Dems: ‘Mike Madigan’s gotta go but I’ll vote for him to stay’

Three candidates in a North Side state rep race sound like those Washington Republicans who are terrified of taking on President Donald Trump.

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Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan is mired in an ever-expanding series of state and investigations, writes Laura Washington.

Sun-Times Media

Should Mike Madigan stay, or should he go?

The Illinois House Speaker has served in that all-powerful role for 35 of the last 37 years. Now he is mired in an ever-expanding series of state and investigations. He has not done enough to root out sexual harassment and other misconduct in Springfield. He turns a blind eye toward the insidious conflicts of interest that help him and other elected officials to profit from their power.

Yet he has been elected and re-elected, again and again, by his subservient fellow Democrats.

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Last Monday, I moderated a forum featuring the candidates running in the March 17 Democratic primary for state representative in the 12th District. In January, the seat opened up for the first time in 26 years when state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz was appointed to a state Senate seat, replacing retiring state Sen. John Cullerton.

Five candidates are competing to represent this North Side legislative district, which include portions of Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the Near North Side and Uptown.

Appearing at the forum were Margaret Croke, deputy chief of staff at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; attorney James A. “Jimmy” Garfield; Marty Malone, a former director of community affairs for Cook County; real estate agent and newly appointed State Rep. Yoni Pizer; Ryan Podges, also an attorney; and Kimberly Walz, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley. (Walz has since dropped out of the race).

The day before the forum, the district’s political bosses appointed Pizer, Democratic Party Machine style, to serve the remainder of Feigenholtz’s term.

I posed The Madigan Question: “How many of you think it’s time for Mike Madigan to step down as speaker of the House?”

All six raised their hands.

A pleasant surprise. Then I realized it wasn’t the right question.

A hat tip to columnist Rich Miller, who did. He followed up on the forum for his exclusive political newsletter, Capitol Fax, and gave me permission to share what he found.

Miller wrote that he had “reached out to five of the six to follow up, asking, among other things, if this meant they wouldn’t be voting to reelect Madigan next January.”

Garfield had already declared he would not vote for Madigan, and Podges and Walz did not respond to Miller’s question. But Pizer, Croke and Malone did respond — and wimped out.

Madigan should step down, all three said, but they still would vote to keep him in power as speaker.

Pizer offered blathering rhetoric about a “broken” culture in Springfield. “My constituents have lost faith in their elected officials, and I will do everything I can to ensure that we regain their faith,” he told Miller.

While Pizer supports legislative leadership term limits, he said he would vote for Madigan over any Republican because “there is too much at stake” for the Democrats’ policy initiatives.

He sounds like the Republicans in Washington who are terrified of taking on President Donald Trump.

Croke said she believes “that Springfield would benefit from a new generation of leadership.” Yet, she said, she “will vote for the Democrat for speaker which in all likelihood will be Mike Madigan.”

Malone supports term limits, too. But, he said, if Madigan is running “I’d vote ‘yes’ because there’s no way my 5 percent property tax cap legislation would have a chance without him.”

Hypocrites, all. They haven’t even been elected but are ready to surrender.

Springfield is swamped with allegations of corruption, malfeasance, discrimination and conflicts of interest. Madigan presides over it all.

It will stay that way as long as party and power “trump” doing the right thing.

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