Madigan resigns ending half century of leadership

Madigan resigns ending half century of leadership
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Madigan resigns ending a half century of leadership

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan ended a half century long career in public service on Thursday, February 18, 2021, resigning from his seat as representative of the 22nd House District in Illinois and his role as Speaker of the House.

By Ray Hanania

Michael J Madigan, who was elected to The Illinois House in 1970 and later became the longest serving Illinois House Speaker resigned from his seat representing the 22nd House District ion the Southwest Side of Chicagoland on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

Madigan said that he was the target of “vicious attacks” against his leadership but issued a list of his achievements and thanked his family for their support during his career.

“Today I am announcing that I will resign as state representative of the 22nd district at the end of the month. It has been my great honor to serve the people of Illinois as speaker of the House and state representative of the 22nd District,” Madigan said in a statement.

“This journey would not have been possible without my wonderful wife, Shirley, and children, Lisa, Tiffany, Nicole and Andrew, who have stood by my side year after year, providing their love and support despite the pressure of growing up in the public spotlight. I am fortunate to have them in my life.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan addressing the Oct. 21, 2018 candidate's forum hosted by the Arab American Democratic Club in suburban Chicago. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan addressing the Oct. 21, 2018 candidate’s forum hosted by the Arab American Democratic Club in suburban Chicago. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Madigan said he entered public service 50 years ago “to make a difference.”

“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service. Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House,” Madigan said.

“As speaker, legislator and member of the Illinois Constitutional Convention, I worked to make the General Assembly a co-equal branch of government, ensuring it acted as a check on the power of the governor and the executive branch, especially around a governor’s abuse of the amendatory veto. Many heated battles were fought to keep governors from rewriting legislation sent to them by the General Assembly.”

Reaction was immediate. Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statement noting Madigan’s achievements.

“When you dedicate your career to public service, it’s your loved ones who make the biggest sacrifices – whether it’s because you’re away from home, working long hours or spending time with constituents,” Pritzker said.

“Michael J. Madigan and his family dedicated countless hours to serving Illinois families, particularly during the Rauner years, when he served as the bulwark against constant cruelty to the most vulnerable. Over his decades in office, he shepherded through some of the most consequential changes to our state: bringing about the legalization of gay marriage, fighting on the frontlines for workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding access to voting and protecting women’s reproductive rights. The people of Illinois have much to be grateful for thanks to his dedicated public service, and the many sacrifices he and his family made to make a difference in our lives. I know how dearly he loves his wife Shirley, their children and grandchildren, and I hope that in this next chapter, his family can begin to make up for lost time.”

Alderman Marty Quinn of the 13th Ward, where Madigan serves as the Democratic Committeeman, also issued a statement acknowledging Madigan’s leadership and achievements.

“Leading by example, Speaker Madigan has taught me many invaluable lessons. His unwavering commitment to his family has instilled in me how to be a good husband and father. Speaker Madigan has always fought for the little guy, ensuring people have the opportunities to build a good life for themselves and their families,” Quinn said.

“I’m particularly proud of our accomplishments to provide nearly $250 million in quality educational opportunities to students of all ages throughout the district. Working alongside Speaker Madigan has been the honor of a lifetime. The immense sacrifices the entire Madigan family has made for the people of Illinois and the residents of the 22nd district will be felt for years to come.”

In his resignation statement, Madigan gave no indication of what he might do next but he cited his achievements both as a legislator and as the Speaker of the House.

“I am particularly proud of our work to increase the diversity of voices in the House Democratic Caucus to include more women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. In my tenure as Illinois House speaker, we worked to elect representatives across all backgrounds and beliefs to truly represent the interests of the people of our state,” Madigan said.

“With the partnership of this diverse and talented group of Illinois Democrats and with our colleagues across the aisle, we were able to level the playing field and strengthen the middle class while workers in other states saw their wages diminished. We achieved school funding reform to increase investment for schools in need and address inequalities in our state’s education system. We made Illinois a welcoming state by passing the Illinois Dream Act and providing drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents.”

Madigan said he fought for workers’ rights, increasing the minimum wage, expanded access to health care for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, and protected a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

“We upheld the rights of all Illinois residents by passing marriage equality, finally recognizing the rights of men and women to marry the people they love. We enacted criminal justice reforms to break down laws that too often target people of color and led the country in expanding voting rights as other states weakened them,” Madigan said.

“Collaborating with leaders in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, health care and other industries, we built a partnership with job creators to encourage economic development and address crises in our unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems. We also expanded opportunities in the tourism and film industry, created the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that reinvented McCormick Place and Navy Pier, and established the Illinois Sports Facility Authority that kept the White Sox in Chicago.”

Madigan slammed the administration of former governor Bruce Rauner who left Illinois in a financial and social mess.

“When were confronted with the Rauner administration and the interests of the wealthy, who sought to weaken unions and the labor movement in Illinois, we stood up for working people,” Madigan said.

“Rauner went on to plunge our state into a budget crisis, nearly bankrupting social service agencies, eliminating funding for higher education, and racking up billions of dollars in state debt in the process. House Democrats stood as the last line of defense to protect our state from collapse.”

Madigan said he turned the state’s economy around, adding, “Under my leadership, we increased transparency of state and local government by creating the Freedom of Information Act and protecting it from attempts to water it down, impeached Rod Blagojevich and repeatedly strengthened the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.”

Madigan acknowledged the accusations that have been made by his critics.

“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois,” Madigan said.

“My achievements would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of many members of my staff through the years. I thank them for their efforts on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus and the people of Illinois. I also want to thank the many volunteers and supporters who worked on behalf of the residents of the 22nd District. It is with the collective support of many that we have made Illinois a bastion of Democratic values. I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”

Representative Madigan was first elected as a delegate to the 1970 Constitutional Convention and then as a state Representative the same year. He was born April 19, 1942, in the district he now represents. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University School of Law and practices law in Chicago.

Madigan and his wife, Shirley, have three daughters, a son and four grandchildren.

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