Sorting through calls and reasons for Madigan to step down no simple task for some Democrats

Asked to clarify Newman’s position, her campaign manager said the congressional candidate thinks Madigan should step down if the ComEd allegations prove true — but she also stands by her 2018 call for him to immediately resign over his handling of harassment complaints.

SHARE Sorting through calls and reasons for Madigan to step down no simple task for some Democrats
Democratic congressional nominee Marie Newman, left, on Wednesday; House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, on Tuesday.

Democratic congressional nominee Marie Newman, left, participates in the Illinois delegation’s daily press briefing Wednesday; House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, participates in the delegation’s discussion Tuesday.

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Pinning down Democratic congressional nominee Marie Newman’s position on state House Speaker Mike Madigan during the Democratic National Convention is not quite as difficult as tracking down the powerful party leader himself — but it’s close.

Two years ago, Newman said the powerful speaker should immediately step down as state party chief because he failed in his handling of sexual harassment complaints in his political organization.

“Anything less would put the Democrats’ political prospects at risk in November,” the La Grange businesswoman said then, before she lost her 2018 primary bid against Madigan ally Dan Lipinski.

But after vanquishing Lipinski in a bitter rematch earlier this year — and after Madigan was implicated in federal investigation — Newman on Wednesday sidestepped a question on whether she would join the growing list of Democrats calling for Madigan’s immediate resignation over the ComEd criminal case, calling it a distraction ahead of a critical election.

“Let me just say, I’m infuriated by the ComEd scandal,” Newman said during an Illinois delegation briefing, before the third night of the Democratic National Convention. “We will not let us be distracted by that kind of thing. This is the type of corporate scandal that the dictator-in-chief is famous for,” she said, likening Madigan’s ComEd flap to the various scandals that have plagued President Donald Trump’s administration.

U.S. congressional candidate Marie Newman and incumbent Dan Lipinski in 2018.

U.S. congressional candidate Marie Newman and incumbent Dan Lipinski in 2018.

James Foster/Sun-Times file

“And we as a party, as a Democratic Party, have to come to the fore, be united and fight this tooth and nail. So we will not be distracted by this in any way, we will move forward and we will win in November,” Newman said during the virtual briefing.

Asked later to clarify Newman’s position, her campaign manager said the congressional candidate thinks Madigan should step down if the ComEd allegations prove true — but she also stands by her 2018 call for him to immediately resign.

“The concern Marie shared in 2018 stands, as does her commitment to standing with survivors,” Newman campaign manager Ben Hardin said. “Sexual harassmentis unacceptable, and for it to go unchallenged or unpunished in our government is abhorrent. If the current allegations surrounding Speaker Madigan are true, Marie believes that he should immediately step down. That said, Marie’s solefocuslies on winning her race and fighting for much needed relief for workers and working families in Illinois’ Third District.”

That’s still an apparent shift for Newman compared to her stance in February 2018, when she said if Madigan didn’t step down right away, it “would send a signal to all victims that their voices don’t matter, and that the status quo will never be disrupted.”

House Speaker Mike Madigan, top left, and Democratic congressional nominee Marie Newman, top right, on Wednesday.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, top left, and Democratic congressional nominee Marie Newman, top right, participate in the Illinois delegation’s “Fighting for Economic and Racial Justice.” virtual program on Wednesday.

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Earlier this summer, federal prosecutors charged ComEd with taking part in a bribery scheme that benefited associates of Madigan. The Southwest Side House and party leader hasn’t been charged with a crime, has denied any wrongdoing and rejected calls to step down from a handful of his own caucus members.

And Madigan himself has been an elusive figure during this year’s unprecedented virtual convention, speaking barely a few minutes on camera over four nights of e-programming.

“Over the last several days, Democrats have laid out a case to the American people and the people of Illinois as to why we need to remove Donald Trump from office, including his assaults on the rights of women and workers are among the worst of Donald Trump’s actions,” Madigan said during his brief opening remarks for the delegation’s Wednesday program. “But among the worst of Donald Trump’s actions is his deliberate efforts in fanning the flames of hatred and racial and ethnic division for his own political purposes.”

Madigan previously declared he’s staying on as the Illinois Democratic Party chair “to lead the effort to defeat Donald Trump, expand the Illinois congressional delegation and the majorities in the Illinois House and Senate.”

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