House Speaker Michael Madigan spent tens of thousands of dollars and devoted political staff to help re-elect state Rep. Maria “Toni” Berrios and indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith.
Asked for the first time Thursday about their embarrassing losses, Madigan insisted he expected both candidates might go down in flames despite pumping $66,000-plus into Berrios’ race and nearly $60,000 more into Smith’s effort.
The defeats of both incumbents left the equivalent of a three-egg omelet on the face of a man who doesn’t lose often and who has built a reputation of almost mythic proportions in the way he singlehandedly makes things happen — or not happen — at the Statehouse.
“We knew the Berrios contest would be a difficult election,” Madigan said during a Statehouse press conference, where he announced a tax-hike proposal on millionaires. “We knew that from day one, so we’re not surprised at the results. In the case of Smith, obvously he had some problems going into the election. So again, we weren’t surprised at what happened.”
In Smith’s case, Madigan went so far as to cast a vote in 2012 to expel Smith from the House for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe from an undercover informant to help arrange a $50,000 state grant for a purported daycare center in his district. Smith, who is scheduled to go on trial for federal bribery charges in May, was elected that year despite the expulsion.
Berrios, a casualty of a paper-thin legislative record, lost in a landslide against 26-year-old Will Guzzardi. She wasn’t helped by controversy surrounding her father, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, a close Madigan ally who once invoked the memory of President John F. Kennedy when asked to explain why 13 members of the Berrios clan are on county and state payrolls.
Asked why he backed both Berrios and Smith in the first place if he now isn’t surprised they lost, Madigan spread his hands Thursday and simply said, “We support incumbents.”