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Democratic panel chair says his COVID-19 diagnosis won’t affect state House probe of Madigan

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch tweeted about his COVID-19 diagnosis on Sunday. The Hillside Democrat said he’s going to be retested Dec. 9 and hopes to be fine for the committee meeting Dec. 14.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, in September.
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, opens a House Special Investigating Committee hearing in Springfield in September.
Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP file

The chair of the special state House investigative committee looking into Speaker Michael Madigan’s dealings with ComEd announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus days after he put the panel’s next meeting on the calendar.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, tweeted about his COVID-19 diagnosis on Sunday.

He told the Chicago Sun-Times he started to feel symptoms Wednesday and felt something new “each day thereafter” and he was tested Saturday afternoon.

His family has tested negative, but “we definitely traced the source to a family member in our circle who tested positive earlier in the week,” Welch said.

The Hillside Democrat said he’s going to be retested Dec. 9 and hopes to be fine for the committee meeting Dec. 14.

Then House Speaker Mike Madigan, left, in July; Future Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, right, in September.
House Speaker Mike Madigan, left, in July; State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, right, in September.
Neal Earley/Sun-Times; Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP

Welch scheduled that meeting Wednesday after the committee received and released hundreds of pages of emails that show the extent of ComEd’s relationship with a Madigan confidant, Michael McClain, who requested jobs for the speaker’s associates and favors from high-ranking officials with the utility company.

Madigan, who has not been charged and said he has done nothing wrong, is fighting to keep the speaker’s position he has held for nearly four decades after last week’s indictment of McClain and three others prompted a series of Democratic lawmakers to announce they will not support the Southwest Side Democrat for another term.

In his statement last week, Welch said the documents show “associates of ComEd assisted with job recommendations for people from both parties, both chambers, and multiple branches of government.”

That’s been a common line of defense from Madigan and others. Other legislative leaders, including former state Senate President John Cullerton, also forwarded job requests and recommendations to the company, the documents show.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin also appears a few times in the emails released Wednesday.

McClain said to former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez in one email exchange involving a potential job “Can we move on this item or at least tell Durkin through his agent we will?”

State House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, in May.
State House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, in May.
Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register file

Asked for comment about Durkin’s name appearing in the documents, a spokeswoman for Durkin accused ComEd of trying to protect Madigan but did not explain what Durkin had requested. She pointed to testimony from a ComEd attorney in September who said he wasn’t aware that a particular hire was done “with an effort to curry favor with . . . Leader Durkin.”