PRITZKER TIPTOES AROUND CRITICIZING MADIGAN OVER SPEED OF AIDE’S FIRING
SPRINGFIELD — J. B. Pritzker on Wednesday tiptoed around criticizing Mike Madigan over the state Democratic Party chairman’s handling of a sexual harassment complaint.
But under repeated questions from reporters, the billionaire entrepreneur did question why it took three months for a Madigan political aide — and brother of an alderman — to be fired.
“It shouldn’t take that long,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker is in a precarious spot. His Democratic campaign for governor is backed by heavy- hitting state Democrats and unions, many allied with the powerful House speaker. But Pritzker has been careful not to signal public support for Madigan, given Madigan’s growing unpopularity with some voters.
Madigan, too, is facing a harsh spotlight. The Southwest Side Democrat helped to pass legislation targeting sexual harassment within state government in early November, nearly the same time he received a letter from a woman claiming she was sexually harassed within Madigan’s own 13th Ward operation.
Madigan on Monday announced the firing of Kevin Quinn, the brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn.
The following day, Alaina Hampton stood before cameras to tell her side of the story, detailing dozens of unwanted text messages.
A lawyer for Madigan conducted a three- month long investigation, which led to Kevin Quinn’s firing. “It would take all of 20 minutes to know that that was sexual harassment,” Hampton said.
After her Tuesday news conference, Hampton tweeted: “I appreciate the outpouring support from numerous elected officials I have worked with and politicos I know in Chicago. Zero people associated with the Speaker have reached out to support me today.”
Hampton helped to run state Rep. Juliana Stratton’s legislative race in 2016. And Stratton is now Pritzker’s running mate.
Following Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget address on Wednesday, Pritzker first sidestepped questions about whether Madigan did enough to deal with sexual harassment within his own organization. He urged everyone to stand up for Hampton and for women who are the subject of sexual harassment.
He was asked repeatedly if Madigan did enough to protect women by taking so long to fire Kevin Quinn.
“Once again, I think that you have to have an investigation. It can’t be a subjective one. It has to be an independent one, and I think the information that comes out of that will tell the story,” Pritzker said.
But asked whether the speaker followed that philosophy in Hampton’s case, Pritzker signaled some disapproval.
“So far, what I know is that there were reports that were made and not enough was done early enough. That’s what I know,” Pritzker said.
Other Democratic candidates were more severe in their critique of the speaker. State Rep. Scott Drury, who is fighting a legal challenge to be on the Democratic ballot for attorney general, continues to call for Madigan to step down.
And Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy on Tuesday said Madigan should temporarily step down as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown on Wednesday said Kennedy’s criticism “seems to be his theory of how to win the nomination.” The speaker in a media availability on Tuesday claimed Drury is just doing Rauner’s bidding — a claim he staunchly denies.
“It’s funny that he didn’t come into the caucus when he was in the Dome yesterday,” Brown said of Drury. “He was speaking to the media instead.”
Alaina Hampton on Tuesday details dozens of unwanted text messages from an aide of Speaker Mike Madigan. The aide has been fired.
J. B. Pritzker