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Is Mike like Ike? Dem says ousting Madigan now like sacking Eisenhower on D-Day

House Speaker Michael Madigan arrives for a leaders meeting at the Thompson Center in 2016. File photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1951. Sun-Times File Photo

House Speaker Michael Madigan arrives for a leaders meeting at the Thompson Center in 2016. File photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1951. Sun-Times File Photo

Removing Michael Madigan as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party before the March 20 primary would be “like taking Eisenhower out as the troops are landing on Normandy,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader said Friday.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) said there will be plenty of time after the primary to talk about whether Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment allegations in his once impenetrable political organization warrants his removal as speaker, chairman of the state Democratic Party or both of those powerful and intertwining roles.

But talking about it now would be tantamount to Democrats waving the white flag against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“I don’t think it helps us four weeks before an election to take the person who runs the statewide mechanism and say, `You’re out.’ We’re trying to actually win an election across the state,” said O’Connor, a Democratic ward committeeman.

“It would be like taking Eisenhower out as the troops are landing on Normandy. We just need to make sure that we win this primary. Once the primary is over, then we can figure out where we need to be as a party to take on the Republicans moving forward.”

Patrick O'Connor

Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) says now is not the time for House Speaker Mike Madigan to step down as leader of the state’s Democratic Party. | Sun-Times file photo

But hasn’t Madigan become a liability in that effort?

“They have spent $100 million or more in the Republican party to beat up Mike Madigan. Is he a liability or have people just heard it often enough that he’s a liability?” O’Connor said.

“If you throw hundreds of millions of dollars to make somebody a bad guy, people will begin to see that that guy is a bad guy. It’s propaganda at its best.”

Although O’Connor is not a state central committeeman with a vote on Madigan’s future, he is Emanuel’s closest ally.

Anything the mayor’s floor leader says about Madigan is significant, given Emanuel’s close working relationship with the speaker, which has produced legislative dividends for both the city and, more importantly, for the Chicago Public Schools.

O’Connor stopped short of condoning Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment and bullying allegations within his organization.

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaking at the University Club of Chicago in 2015. File photo | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; President Dwight D. Eisenhower in undated image. (AP Photo/File)

“There’s gonna be plenty of time to figure out the sequencing and how this thing worked and figure out whether they made mistakes or not and whether those mistakes rise to the level of him [having to] move away,” O’Connor said.

“I just think doing it before a primary election is just a crazy thing. Let’s get the primary over, figure out who’s gonna take the Republicans on in November, then figure out what our best strategy is to win that race.”

O’Connor spoke after the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee he chairs closed a gaping loophole in the city’s sexual harassment ordinance.

The new ordinance would extend protections against “unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature” to anyone who interacts with a city employee or elected official, including businesses, constituents and lobbyists.

O’Connor was asked whether the change was made because “another shoe” was about to drop — this time at City Hall.

“Not that I’m aware of. This is just good stewardship to make sure we’ve done the right thing,” the chairman said.

Madigan has fired one veteran political worker, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), and banned a second lieutenant, Shaw Decremer, from his political organization because of allegations of bullying and harassment.

Political consultant Alaina Hampton claims she told Ald. Marty Quinn, her political mentor, a year ago that the alderman’s brother, political aide Kevin Quinn, had stalked her with a series of harassing text messages. She called coming forward the “hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”

Lorna Brett (left) and attorney Shelly Kulwin (right) look on Alaina Hampton speaks during a news conference, outlining her complaints against Kevin Quinn. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

But Hampton accused Ald. Quinn of choosing to “protect Kevin instead of me,” giving her no choice but to leave Madigan’s political organization.

Ald. Quinn has maintained that, as soon as Hampton told him about the text messages, he immediately directed his brother to “stop all communication” with her and warned Kevin Quinn that, if he didn’t, he would be fired immediately.

Ald. Quinn said he took no further action — nor did he tell Madigan — because, “I was attempting to protect Ms. Hampton’s privacy and honor her wishes” that the allegations be kept quiet and that Kevin Quinn “not be further reprimanded.”

Since Hampton’s allegations, pressure has been mounting on Madigan to step down as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and agree to an independent investigation of the organizations under his iron-fisted control.

Madigan has been in damage-control mode, acknowledging in a letter to his Democratic Caucus that, “We haven’t done enough. I take responsibility for that. I would never condone, sweep under the rug or refuse to take any step to ensure we did not eradicate any behavior of this kind.”