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In wake of scandal, Democratic Party of Illinois taps new executive director

Mary Morrissey, appointed on Friday to be the new Democratic Party of Illinois executive director. She is in Washington at the Democratic National Committee Winter meeting. | Provided photo.

WASHINGTON – The Democratic Party of Illinois, searching for an executive director since the last one was ousted over a harassment scandal, on Friday announced veteran political operative Mary Morrissey will fill the post.

Morrissey, a Southwest Side Beverly resident, the DPI chief operating officer since last June, comes out of former Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s political and governmental operations.

In tapping Morrissey, the four co-chairs of the search panel – committeewomen and Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough; former state Sen. Carol Ronen; state Sen. Iris Martinez; and Jayne Mazzotti, a teacher – also told DPI chair Michael Madigan it is time for the state party to develop a “revised mission” and collaborate with other Democrats.

With #MeToo winds at their backs, the entire search committee of 17 was comprised of female state central committeewomen.

In a letter to House Speaker Madigan the four wrote, “It is our unanimous opinion that Mary embodies the background, experience and skill set that mirror the requirements that we set forth in our carefully crafted job description. She has experience in running political campaigns, fundraising, supervising staff, and understands the political landscape and has working relationships with political leaders across the state.

“… We believe that the appointment of Mary Morrissey will help to usher in a new focus on collaboration, communication and support for Democratic candidates running up and down the ballot.”

Speaker Madigan has stubbornly refused to perform many party chair functions, leaving it up to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to often take the lead in coordinating efforts to elect Democrats statewide – not just the state representatives who keep Madigan in power.

Morrissey is in Washington for the Democratic National Committee winter meeting with other Illinois DNC members – but not Madigan, who doesn’t attend national DNC meetings because he thinks they are a waste of his time.

Morrissey takes the job once held by Tim Mapes, a Mike Madigan sidekick who was also the speaker’s chief of staff and the clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Last June, Mapes was removed from all three jobs on the same day a longtime speaker’s office employee, Sherri Garrett, went public with what she called “harassment” and “bullying” allegations.

In the wake of the Mapes scandal, the hunt for his replacement started, with former state Rep. Christian Mitchell – now a deputy governor – serving as interim executive director in the run-up to the November election.

“I am very pleased that Mary Morrissey will be leading the effort in Illinois to support the policies of the Democratic Party to help improve peoples’ lives across our state,” Yarbrough said in a statement.

“Mary started at the Democratic Party of Illinois under challenging circumstances, kept operations running and led the party to a statewide sweep last November. She has the leadership we need to keep us moving forward,” she said.

Morrissey has held political and government positions for Lisa Madigan – Mike Madigan’s daughter – who left office in January, after deciding not to seek another term.

She served eight years as Lisa Madigan’s deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative, and was the political director and campaign manager for her 2010 re-election campaign. Earlier in Morrissey’s career, she was a member of Mike Madigan’s Illinois House Democratic staff.

Speaker Madigan said in a statement, “This appointment reflects a continued commitment to creating a stronger and better culture in the Democratic Party throughout Illinois.”