As Democratic convention looms, a call for Mike Madigan to step down as Illinois party chair

Former state Sen. Carol Ronen, who holds state and national Democratic party positions, said in a tweet, “Speaker Madigan should resign leadership posts. IL Dems bigger than one person.”

SHARE As Democratic convention looms, a call for Mike Madigan to step down as Illinois party chair

Just before the Democratic National Convention, former state Sen. Carol Ronen calls for scandalized Democratic Party of Illinois chair and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to give up his leadership roles.

AP photo/Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register

Days before the kickoff of the Democratic National Convention, former state Sen. Carol Ronen — who holds state and national party positions — on Thursday called for Mike Madigan to step down as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

She made her announcement in a tweet, and I asked her more about it in an interview. The convention — all virtual now — begins Aug. 17. There will be a virtual “welcome reception” for the Illinois delegation at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 16. Joe Biden accepts the Democratic presidential nomination Aug. 20.

Each night, at 6:30 p.m., the Illinois delegation will hold a virtual delegate meeting before the convention prime-time program, starting at 8 p.m. and running two hours.

As most know, Madigan is under a cloud. Though not charged, he figures heavily in the federal charges against Commonwealth Edison. In the ongoing investigation, the utility admitted to a scheme of doing favors to attempt to wrangle favorable treatment from Madigan, who is also the Illinois House Speaker.

Madigan, wearing his party chairman hat, would, in past years, be a highly visible presence at delegation meetings taking place each day during national conventions, and that’s the problem.

Tweeted Ronen, “Speaker Madigan should resign leadership posts. IL Dems bigger than one person. @DemsforIl has excellent, diverse leaders for victory w/out distractions. We win when we stand for something bigger than ourselves. Not one individual.”

Ronen is a member of the state party’s central committee and is on the Democratic National Committee. The former North Side state lawmaker also wants Madigan to relinquish his House Speaker job as well as his political post, adding her voice to a few other state legislators and Chicago aldermen.

State Sen. Iris Martinez, also a DNC member and on the state central committee, earlier called for Madigan to give up his leadership spots.

Ronen’s push Thursday especially resonates because it comes just as Madigan could be in a national spotlight and highlights one of the two powerful hats he wears.

“The timing is because the Democratic convention starts in two weeks and he is the chair of our delegation. And as we go into this really important, critically important election, I strongly believe he should not be the face of our party,” Ronen told me.

Madigan clings to the role of the state party chairman because it helps him retain power in the state House. A candidate has to go through the state party to qualify for cheaper postal rates. With so many state House contests heavily using direct mail, Madigan controls state representatives with threats to strip them of their discount mail.

Madigan also has a history with the Democratic National Committee. In August 2018, when the DNC held its annual summer meeting in Chicago — a big party event with most state party chairs traveling to the city — Madigan didn’t bother to attend.

Another scandal resulted in the ouster of Madigan confidant Tim Mapes as the party executive director, who served only Madigan. A welcome byproduct of Mapes’ departure has been the appointment of Mary Morrisey as the party’s executive director, who comes from Madigan’s world but runs the party professionally.

In 2020, a Democratic party chair, Ronen said, should “be out there to take it to Trump every day and be that strong advocate, and we’re not really doing that. That’s not his thing.”

To consider in the run-up to the convention:

Do Illinois Democrats want to be seen or associated with Madigan, even at virtual events? Will Madigan show up in the Zoom?

Democrats have made gains in Illinois while Madigan has been chair. Does that mean he sticks around no matter what?

Why have a state party chair who is useless as a surrogate? Even before the ComEd scandal, Madigan shrugged off that role.

While Biden is going to win in super-blue Illinois, Madigan plays into the hands of President Donald Trump’s team and is an unneeded distraction. How does it help Biden to have a major state party Democratic chair with serious ethical issues?

And to that point, it’s not a question whether Madigan’s presence at the convention — even a virtual one — damages state and federal candidates in tough races. It’s how much.

A Madigan spokesperson declined to comment.

Ronen’s call for Madigan to stand down puts a focus on his party role on the cusp of the Democratic National Convention. She opens a door at just the right time for others to walk through.

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