Mike Madigan and four other Cook County Democratic Committee members met again Thursday to pick a successor to the longtime state representative, this time choosing Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar.
The appointment to the House seat Madigan held for 50 years took roughly five minutes.
In their quick do-over, committee members didn’t hear from new candidates, choosing instead to nominate from among the ones they had heard from on Sunday when they first filled the vacancy.
On Thursday, Guerrero-Cuellar was nominated by Madigan, committeeperson of the 13th Ward.
Before being appointed to the role, the new representative said her “focus and motivation” is to serve the community and residents of the 22nd House district.
“I believe that my life experiences can be relatable to the residents in this area,” Guerrero-Cuellar said.
In addition to succeeding Madigan, who was first elected in 1971, Guerrero-Cuellar, 39, succeeds Edward Guerra Kodatt, 26, who was first appointed Sunday, only to quit three days later.
Madigan’s first choice, Kodatt resigned from the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, the day after Madigan and Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) issued a statement urging him to step down amid allegations of “questionable conduct” — though their statement did not say what that conduct was.
It was a major political embarrassment for Madigan, 78, who over the decades honed a reputation as a shrewd political strategist always carefully planning ahead and rarely caught off guard.
At the Thursday meeting, Madigan said “the proper questions were asked” during Kodatt’s vetting process, but added “I don’t plan to speak to the background questions” surrounding Kodatt’s resignation.
He said he learned of the allegations “a little bit ago,” adding that it was after Kodatt was named to succeed him.
“The events developed as they developed,” Madigan said. “I’m anxious to move forward with Angie Guerrero-Cuellar.”
Kodatt has not responded to requests for comment.
State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, who represents the 14th Ward as its committeeperson, nominated another candidate, Silvia Villa.
Joining Madigan in voting for Guerrero-Cuellar were Ald. Silvana Tabares, who doubles as the 23rd Ward committeeperson, 18th Ward committeeperson and Ald. Derrick Curtis and Vincent Cainkar, the committeeperson for Stickney Township.
Tabares had initially nominated Guerrero-Cuellar during the Sunday meeting.
On Thursday, Guerrero-Cuellar said she was surprised by the turn of events, but expressed a readiness to represent the community.
“At least with pregnancy you have nine months to prepare — this is not something I was really prepared for,” said Guerrero-Cuellar, whose two daughters were on hand for the appointment.
“I did submit my application just to be hopeful and to provide my credentials, but also to let people know that we should definitely give back to the community, and that’s what I’m doing and that’s what I’ve always done.”
Guerrero-Cuellar lives in the 13th Ward and is manager of operations at Envision Community Services, a role she said she’ll leave to focus on her new position. She also served as the field and volunteer director for Angie Sandoval’s campaign for Cook County Commissioner.
Sandoval is the daughter of the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval who became a crucial figure in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations before he died from COVID-19 late last year.
Madigan’s own political plunge began last year after federal prosecutors accused ComEd officials of bribing associates of Madigan in exchange for his organization’s help in passing favorable legislation. Madigan has not been charged with any crime and denies wrongdoing.
And he resisted calls from a coalition of progressive groups to recuse himself from playing a role in filling his House seat.
Madigan, who has enough of the required vote to single-handedly make the appointment, threw his support behind Guerrero-Cuellar shortly after Kodatt resigned.
“The action of the committee taken on Sunday was nullified because of the resignation, creating a vacancy and so today we filled the vacancy,” Madigan said Thursday. “I don’t plan to speak to background questions.”
The once powerful House leader said he preferred to talk about Guerrero-Cuellar.
“She’s been active in our community ... and therefore she’s had good experience in understanding the needs and the desires of the people on the Southwest Side,” he said.
Madigan walked away from reporters as they continued asking questions about Kodatt and who he would support to replace him as chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Ignoring the questions, he disappeared into the 13th Ward offices down the hall from the ballroom where the appointment vote had been held.