Scott Reeder: Sticking a thumb in Mike Madigan's eye

SHARE Scott Reeder: Sticking a thumb in Mike Madigan's eye

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

SPRINGFIELD – The only can to get kicked down the road last week was Mike Madigan’s.

For three decades, Madigan has been Illinois’ most powerful politician.

Governors come and go.

Madigan stays.

In the history of the United States, no one has led a state legislative body longer than Mike Madigan.

No one.


He is the personification of the old-time political boss. He demands adherence from legislators and in return doles out campaign cash, committee assignments and if they are really good he might even allow their legislation to be voted upon.

He’s a shrewd, calculating individual who rarely loses.

In fact, “Never bet against Mike Madigan” has become perhaps the most repeated axiom at the Illinois statehouse in the many years I’ve been in Springfield.

What Mike Madigan really wants, he gets.

Reporters, lawmakers and other political insiders were left rolling their eyes Wednesday night when Madigan claimed to have never pressured anyone to vote a particular way.

It was theater of the absurd.

Madigan rules like a despot.

If someone crosses him, it’s done with trepidation.

That’s why State Rep. Ken Dunkin’s actions were profound.

Madigan needed all 71 of his members to show up Wednesday and vote as one to override a veto of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s. The measure in question was a political gift to organized labor that could take Rauner out of contract negotiations with the state government’s largest union, leaving the big decisions to an unelected arbitrator.

One member was hauled out of a Chicago hospital bed to answer Madigan’s call. Others canceled other plans to make sure they were Springfield.

But not Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat.

In an act of passive resistance, he didn’t show up, leaving Madigan one vote short.

He may as well have stuck his finger in The Speaker’s eye.

And Dunkin’s move may well have emboldened two other members of Madigan’s caucus to defect as well.

So Madigan lost. Big time.

A fissure is developing in his once impregnable wall of obedience.

We saw hints of it last year when Madigan failed to muster enough votes to put a “millionaire tax” on the ballot.

But the Sept. 2 vote stands out because Madigan invested so much of his political capital into engineering a win but instead manufactured a defeat.

Yes, Mike Madigan is still the most powerful politician in Illinois, but last week people began wondering whether the Madigan era is drawing to a close.

Scott Reeder is a columnist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute.


Follow Scott Reeder on Twitter at: @scottreeder


The Latest
In their home the threesome sleeps in one room, but the man’s dad isn’t comfortable with that arrangement.
The boy was inside a car about 5:30 p.m. in the 8300 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue when someone approached him and fired shots, police said.
Lisa Kudrow leads the bumbling marauders in Apple’s funny follow-up to 1981 film.
Two men, a 46-year-old man from Washington state and a 55-year-old man from Franklin Park, were hospitalized in serious condition following a fire about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Their boat burned.