Does Mike Madigan’s power rival Richard J. Daley’s?

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After last week’s special legislative session fizzled in Springfield, some people were comparing House Speaker Mike Madigan’s grip on the General Assembly to the power wielded years ago by Richard J. Daley.

Downstate author and former political reporter Taylor Pensoneau calls Madigan “the foremost political strongman in Springfield for years.”

However, Pensoneau says, no one compares to the first Mayor Daley in “wielding complete control over everything political in his purview.”

Aaron Jaffe – as chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board – deals with the Legislature now, and he sat in the General Assembly when the first Daley was at the height of his power.

His take on Daley: “Daley controlled everything. He controlled the Chicago City Council. He controlled the Chicago delegation in the Legislature.”

His take on Madigan: “Nothing happens in the House, unless Madigan wants it to happen.”

But it’s hard to compare because in Daley’s day, the Legislature had multi-member districts that ensured candidates who were independent of party machines would be sent to Springfield, said Jaffe (who was one of those independents). Madigan doesn’t have to deal with people like that.

Daley’s Chicago delegations didn’t have enough votes to control the House or Senate all by themselves, but there were enough of them that Daley was a power to be reckoned with. And Daley also controlled the slating of Democratic candidates for statewide office, which gave him additional influence.

Charles Wheeler, a longtime former Sun-Times Statehouse reporter and now director of the public affairs program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, says Madigan is powerful enough to stop anything he wants to from happening in Springfield.

But, unlike Daley, “he is not in a position where he can unilaterally make something happen.”

Read an Aug. 18 editorial on the special legislative session here.

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