Eight say enough? North Side state rep joins seven other Democrats calling for Madigan to step down now
Five Democrats in the House and three in the Senate have so far called on powerful longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to give up his gavel in light of an alleged ComEd bribery scheme that prosecutors say benefited Madigan’s associates.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says he’s not giving up his gavel, but on Friday the drumbeat calling for his immediate resignation from within his own Democratic Caucus grew a little louder.
State Rep. Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer joined the slowly growing list of House Democrats urging Madigan to step down now, without the conditions of waiting to see if a criminal indictment or conviction will follow the explosive bribery case federal prosecutors have leveled against utility giant ComEd.
“With these allegations and previous ones relating to harassment, corruption and mismanagement, I am troubled by the Speaker’s failure to live up to the high ethical standards that the people of Illinois rightfully deserve from their political leaders,” the North Side Democrat said in a statement.
“Although I deeply believe in the bedrock Constitutional presumption of innocence, this is not a court of law, and we cannot wait for the courts to adjudicate and administer their verdict. As legislators, we don’t have to hold the Speaker to a criminal standard of proof or observe rules of evidence in order to demand a change in leadership.”
Pizer is the first man among five House Democrats who so far have insisted on Madigan’s immediate ouster from his posts as speaker and as chair of the Illinois Democratic Party.
His call comes a day after Madigan — who hasn’t been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing — worked the phones to gauge support in his chamber.
The longtime speaker apparently came away with the confidence to declare he has “no plans to resign,” saying the “feedback is positive and demonstrates continued support for me and my leadership roles.”
Pizer told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday he hadn’t gotten a call from Madigan and initially said the speaker should step down “if the allegations are true” — the conditional addendum which most prominent Illinois Democrats, including Gov. J.B. Pritkzer, so far have tagged onto their chidings of the speaker.
Asked Friday what prompted his change in stance, Pizer said: “Upon further reflection and additional conversations with my House colleagues and constituents, I came to the conclusion that the time for the Speaker to step down is now.”
In his statement, Pizer urged “my fellow members of the Illinois General Assembly to join me. … This is a principled position which should be met without threats of political retribution from House leaders or staff.”
Pizer’s fellow Chicago Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy called for Madigan’s gavel a day earlier along with state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego.
State Reps. Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn and Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville made the first calls from from within Madigan’s caucus, while state Sens. Melinda Bush of Grayslake and Heather Steans of the North Side have also said it’s time for him to go, along with Assistant Majority Leader Iris Martinez, the Democratic nominee in November for Cook County circuit court clerk.
Compared to most of those women who previously came out for Madigan’s immediate resignation, Pizer doesn’t have as much at stake. He was appointed to fill the lakefront House seat in February and is finishing out a lame-duck term after losing in the March primary to Margaret Croke.
Croke did not respond to a request for comment.
But with a key November vote on a state constitutional amendment to create graduated state income tax rates, Pizer said. “there is simply too much at stake in this historical moment, and we cannot tolerate any unnecessary distraction from the important work at hand.”
Madigan has not been charged with any crime, but last week, a federal court filing implicated him in an alleged bribery scheme in which ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility.
At an unrelated news conference Friday, Pritzker maintained his measured approach to Madigan’s potential resignation, saying the speaker “needs to stand up and answer these questions because people have serious questions about those things, and any public servant that isn’t willing to do that.”
The billionaire Democratic governor downplayed the potential impact of Madigan and the ComEd case on the November ticket, calling Illinois’ Democratic slate a “high quality group of people with real values and with a mission to lift up working families.
“That’s why people are going to show up and vote. And that’s why I think people will vote for a fair tax system,” Pritzker said.
Contributing: Associated Press