Illinois House Democrats re-elected state Rep. Mike Madigan to his longtime post as House Speaker Jan. 11.

Illinois House Democrats re-elected state Rep. Mike Madigan to his longtime post as House Speaker Jan. 11.

Madigan is now set to become the longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history. By the end of his two-year term in 2019, no American will have held a legislative leadership position for longer.

Madigan won the speakership Wednesday on a 66-51 vote along party lines. All Republicans voted for Burr Ridge state Rep. Jim Durkin. A lone Democrat, Scott Drury of Highwood, voted present. This is the first time a House Democrat has voted “present” for the speaker in 30 years.

The remaining House Democrats cast their votes for Madigan.

“You’ll see a man who works seven days a week to get the job done without putting the focus on himself,” state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, said after seconding the nomination for Madigan as speaker.

This is the 17th time Madigan has been elected speaker. And he has held the post for 32 of the last 34 years, beginning in 1983.

The votes for Madigan are at once stunning and unsurprising.

Illinoisans have a right to be flabbergasted that Madigan drew unanimous support from House Democrats, while nearly two-thirds of registered voters in Illinois disapprove of the speaker, according to polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Despite drawing the state’s legislative map, he’s fresh off a loss of his supermajority in the House, losing four Democrat seats on net.

But Madigan’s re-election seemed inevitable, as not a single sitting House Democrat has ever voted for someone other than Madigan for the speakership (setting aside the 1995 vote, when Republicans controlled the chamber.)

The fear of bucking the speaker’s wishes is warranted. He is the most powerful politician in Illinois. And no other state in the country grants as much power to its House speaker as Illinois does Madigan.

If a Democratic House member doesn’t vote for Madigan, he can take away her campaign money, strip her of any leadership roles and even make sure none of her bills get a hearing.

If House Democrats wanted leadership change, one brave lawmaker is all it would take. Madigan and Durkin were the only House members nominated for the speakership.

Lawmakers have faced unprecedented pressure to justify their vote for the speaker in 2017, as Illinoisans are stuck navigating the highest property taxes in the nation and the worst jobs climate in the Midwest. Many people have responded by leaving – Illinois is also home to the worst out-migration crisis in the country.

Instead of addressing to this suffering by changing the guard, House Democrats re-elected a Cook County property tax lawyer to the most powerful post in the General Assembly.


Austin Berg

Writer

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