Speaker Madi­gan asks House Dems, are you with me or against me?

Madi­gan works the phones and in­sists ‘feed­back is pos­i­tive,’ ‘no plans to re­sign’

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY RACHEL HIN­TON AND NEAL EAR­LEY Staff Re­porters

Speaker Michael Madi­gan took to the phones Thurs­day to con­duct what amounted to a straw poll of House Democrats, ask­ing whether they stand with him af­ter a steadily grow­ing trickle of Demo­cratic calls for him to step down over a fed­eral bomb­shell im­pli­cat­ing him in a brazen bribery scheme.

“He just wanted to know if I was with him,” said West Side state Rep. La Shawn Ford. “And the point I made to him is that ‘If you say you’re in­no­cent, then I’m with you.’”

Not ev­ery­one agrees with Ford. Two more House Democrats de­cided Thurs­day that it’s time for Madi­gan to go.

But the be­lea­guered South­west Side pow­er­house said he likes what he’s hear­ing in his tele­phone chats.

“The feed­back is pos­i­tive and demon­strates con­tin­ued sup­port for me and my lead­er­ship roles,” Madi­gan said late Thurs­day. “I have no plans to re­sign.”

The list of Democrats who want him to start mak­ing plans grew to six.

“The stakes are too high,” state Rep. Kelly Cas­sidy said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “Speaker Madi­gan must step down from his lead­er­ship roles, both in the House and in our party.”

State Rep. Stephanie Ki­fowit of Oswego sent Madi­gan a let­ter on Thurs­day, call­ing on him to re­sign.

“There comes a time to take a stand,” she told the Sun-Times. “And this is the time I de­cided to take a stand.”

Cas­sidy and Ki­fowit are the lat­est Demo­cratic law­mak­ers — so far, all women from Chicago or the sub­urbs — to de­mand Madi­gan re­sign as speaker and chair of the Illi­nois Demo­cratic Party af­ter an ex­plo­sive fed­eral court fil­ing im­pli­cated him last week in an al­leged bribery scheme in which ComEd is ac­cused of send­ing $1.3 mil­lion to Madi­gan’s as­so­ciates for do­ing lit­tle or no work for the util­ity.

Madi­gan has not been charged with any crime and has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democrats have said Madi­gan should re­sign — if he is in­dicted or con­victed — but nu­mer­ous Repub­li­cans

and a grow­ing list of Democrats say the time is now.

“Whether th­ese in­ves­ti­ga­tions ul­ti­mately im­pli­cate him or con­tinue to pick away at his in­ner cir­cle, the dam­age is done,” Cas­sidy said.

Madi­gan, 78, has been a state­house speaker for longer than any­one else in U.S. his­tory. He’s been in the Illi­nois House since 1971 and held the speaker’s gavel for all but two years since 1983.

In a state­ment is­sued late Thurs­day, Madi­gan said he’s talked to many Democrats, but he’s not go­ing any­where.

“I un­der­stand that the last cou­ple of weeks have been dif­fi­cult for our cau­cus and party, and I have had many can­did con­ver­sa­tions with mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus on this mat­ter,” Madi­gan said.

“I have never made a leg­isla­tive de­ci­sion with im­proper mo­tives and any claim oth­er­wise is un­founded. I will con­tinue to lead the ef­fort to de­feat Don­ald Trump, ex­pand the Illi­nois con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion and the ma­jori­ties in the Illi­nois House and Se­nate.”

One House Demo­crat, who asked to re­main anony­mous, said the call he re­ceived from the leg­isla­tive leader known as “The Vel­vet Ham­mer” was “very short and sweet.”

“He said ‘th­ese other peo­ple feel a cer­tain way, and I want to know where you stand, and thank you — that’s all ba­si­cally,” the rep­re­sen­ta­tive said.

Ford said he told the speaker “the mo­ment you feel that you’re not [in­no­cent], I’d like you to let me know, so that there can be a change of my sup­port.”

Ki­fowit said her de­ci­sion to call for Madi­gan’s res­ig­na­tion was not an easy one.

“There were some sleep­less nights,” she said.

So far, four House Democrats and two Se­nate Democrats have called for Madi­gan to step down im­me­di­ately.

Cas­sidy and Ki­fowit join state Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Terra Costa Howard of Glen El­lyn and Anne Stava-Mur­ray of Naperville and state Se­na­tors Melinda Bush of Grayslake and Heather Steans of the North Side.

Pritzker has said he was “fu­ri­ous” about the rev­e­la­tions but has stopped short of call­ing for Madi­gan to quit, say­ing “if it turns out that th­ese things are true, he’s go­ing to have to re­sign.”

At a news con­fer­ence in LaSalle County Thurs­day, Pritzker re­it­er­ated that he be­lieves the speaker has an “enor­mous amount to an­swer for.”

“There are ques­tions that the public needs to hear the an­swer to — I do, too,” Pritzker said. “I want to know those con­nec­tions. I want to un­der­stand what it was the speaker was do­ing. He needs to an­swer th­ese ques­tions, and I think many of us have called for that.”

JUSTIN L. FOWLER/THE STATE JOUR­NAL-REG­IS­TER VIA AP

House Speaker Michael Madi­gan in Springfiel­d in May dur­ing an ex­tended ses­sion of the Illi­nois House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Rep. Stephanie Ki­fowit

Rep. Kelly Cas­sidy

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