An incoming freshman legislator from west suburban Naperville — who campaigned on a promise to vote against Mike Madigan as speaker — says she is receiving warnings from Democratic lawmakers and unions that a “no” vote on his leadership bid will lead to retaliation against her.
State Rep.-elect Anne Stava-Murray told the Sun-Times she has received many calls, with many following a “script.”
“There was a metaphor used, that this is the game board that exists, and you have to play on the game board that exists,” she said.
In addition, she says that at a dinner featuring lawmakers she and other freshman legislators were “forcibly kissed” — although she didn’t immediately elaborate on that situation.
In a lengthy text message Stava-Murray wrote to Jessica Basham, Madigan’s chief of staff, the new lawmaker said that she has “fielded several calls from colleagues seeking to change my mind about my vote that had made me actively worry about retaliation if I didn’t ‘choose my battles wisely’ and if I ‘started off on the wrong foot.'”
Stava-Murray told the Sun-Times she is a survivor of workplace harassment and assault, and she won’t vote for the speaker because she doesn’t believe he’s handled sexual harassment correctly in Springfield.
“Union reps are contacting me. The head of the AFL-CIO called me and they were pressuring me to change my vote when the speaker is 100 percent aware that my vote was because of the nature of sexual harassment in the workplace and because the process hasn’t seemed to change,” Stava-Murray said.
The state representative-elect — who narrowly defeated Republican State Rep. David Olsen in an upset last month — says she’s also received calls from legislators urging her to change her mind on a vote for the speaker.
“I was basically forced to have many long phone conversations where it was indicated to me that — it was mainly other women and other white women that were sent to call me — and they indicated that they wanted women to be able to return to Springfield and that I should consider voting for the speaker,” she said.
Stava-Murray described the calls as “threatening.”
“‘You can’t change the game and so you better get on the board. If you want to play the game, vote for the speaker,'” Stava-Murray says she was told on those calls.
In her text to Basham, Stava-Murray wrote that she met with Madigan and told him she wouldn’t vote for him. She called that meeting “highly distressing,” and said she cried because she “strongly” feared retribution.
In a Nov. 26 Facebook post, Stava-Murray wrote that she was “thankful for the Speaker taking time out of an extremely busy day yesterday to hear my concerns, even when he knew he would not have my vote.”
“I am certain together we will disprove the notion that a person cannot speak their district’s truth and be an effective Springfield legislator,” she wrote.
Bill Looby, a spokesman for AFL-CIO, said the union’s head, Michael Carrigan, met Stava-Murray at a union holiday luncheon on Dec. 5. Looby said Carrigan did not speak directly to her about Madigan. Carrigan left a voicemail to congratulate her, and other new legislators, on election night, he said. There were also letters sent to newly elected legislators congratulating them and asking for a time to meet.
“There was no discussion directly about Speaker Madigan,” Looby said.
Madigan has had to defend the state Democratic party’s handling of sexual harassment complains for months. He has come under fire for his handling of the complaints, but he previously resisted calls from some Democrats that he step down as state party chairman.
In the text to Basham, Stava-Murray also alleges that she was pressured to change her mind on the speaker vote at the House women’s caucus retreat. She accuses retiring Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie, D-Chicago, of “threatening” that she “had better change” her vote by January.
“I explained to her exactly what I had told the speaker about survivors and wanting to have them feel heard and she proceeded to make an obviously false claim that there hadn’t ever been any harassment and went on to victim blame and shame survivors,” Stava-Murray wrote.
Flynn-Currie could not immediately be reached for comment.
Stava-Murray also alleges in the letter that she was “forcibly kissed” at a separate dinner with lawmakers, “as were three other first-year female legislators.” A male colleague was not kissed but was greeted with a firm hand on his shoulder.
Stava-Murray did not immediately elaborate on who kissed her or the other lawmakers.
“I plan to report not only the multi-pronged harassment I sustained prior to my vote, which was inordinately likely to happen to a female as women are much more like[ly] to have have sustained workplace harassment in the past, but also the unwanted kiss,” she wrote. “There is no excuse for a colleague to kiss other colleagues, least of all ‘because they kiss everyone’ as was reported to me by someone else after I mentioned the disturbing harassment.”
Stava-Murray said she has received a response from Basham via text but said that she’ll be filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A source with knowledge of the women’s retreat disputed Stava-Murray’s characterization, saying they believed that “everyone interacted with each other and were having fun getting to know each other, including her [Stava-Murray].”
“The organizers worked hard to create a welcoming environment for everyone who participated,” the source said. “I was floored to read her take on it.”
Madigan won another term as speaker of the state House in January 2017, setting the stage to become the nation’s longest serving state House speaker for at least the last century. Come January, Madigan will have spent 34 years total as speaker, eclipsing the 33-year record set by South Carolina’s Solomon Blatt, who served from 1937-1946 and 1951-1973. The next vote will happen Jan. 9 during an inauguration ceremony in Springfield.
The only Democrat who did not vote for Madigan in 2017 was Scott Drury of Highwood, who voted present. Drury, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in the March primary, said after his vote that he feared repercussions.
Those so-called “repercussions” included not receiving an engraved desk clock the day after inauguration — which all other Democrats received. And he blamed Madigan for losing his vice-chairmanship on the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee. But a Madigan spokesman denied that claim.
A spokesman for Madigan did not return calls for comment on Thursday regarding Stava-Murray’s allegations.
In February, at a news conference in Springfield, Madigan said that his office has been there for potential harassment victims and has handled cases “according to protocol.”
In February, Alaina Hampton, a former campaign consultant, outlined accusations against Madigan aide Kevin Quinn — a younger brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) — claiming he sent her barrages of unwanted text messages and phone calls in pursuit of a romantic and sexual relationship. Hampton has since filed a federal lawsuit against the powerful Illinois House speaker’s political committee and the state Democratic party, over the “severe and persistent sexual harassment” that she she alleges went ignored for nearly a year despite her complaints.
The text from Stava-Murray was first reported by political blog, CapitolFax.com