Madi­gan prov­ing the very real ele­phant in the vir­tual room for Illi­nois Democrats

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­times.com | @mitchtrout

Al­though an all-vir­tual Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion has led to a few awk­ward mo­ments as party lead­ers adapt to a new web-based for­mat, there weren’t any tech­ni­cal glitches be­hind an un­com­fort­able pause Tues­day af­ter­noon as top Illi­nois Democrats were asked a pointed ques­tion about em­bat­tled Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madi­gan. The South­west Side pow­er­house has be­come the ele­phant in the vir­tual con­fer­ence room as ques­tions swirl around his con­nec­tion to a fed­eral bribery case lev­eled against ComEd. But in the ab­sence of an in-per­son con­ven­tion, the long­time speaker — and mem­bers of the Illi­nois Demo­cratic Party he chairs — haven’t had to worry about scrums of reporters chas­ing them down with ques­tions about calls for Madi­gan to re­sign.

That changed at the end of a vir­tual news con­fer­ence pre­view­ing the sec­ond night of the con­ven­tion for the Illi­nois del­e­ga­tion, when a spokes­woman for Madi­gan re­layed a ques­tion from NBC5 po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor Carol Marin to a panel that in­cluded U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Robin Kelly and Jan Schakowsky, Illi­nois Comptrolle­r Su­sana Men­doza and Mary Morrissey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state Demo­cratic Party.

Be­yond the ComEd case, Marin asked if Madi­gan should step down “given also his ad­mit­ted fail­ings” in a sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal that rocked Spring­field two years ago.

A full 13 sec­onds passed be­fore Kelly of­fered the con­di­tional chid­ing of Madi­gan that most prom­i­nent Illi­nois Dems have stuck to since fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced the ComEd case a month ago.

“As I told the speaker, if these facts are proven to be true, then I think that he would have to look at, or he should look at, step­ping down,” said Kelly, a former Illi­nois House mem­ber whose con­gres­sional dis­trict stretches from the South Side to Kanka­kee.

“This is the most im­por­tant elec­tion, and it’s re­ally im­por­tant that that’s what we’re fo­cused on: get­ting Democrats elected . . . . And I think that’s what we need to fo­cus on right now, mak­ing sure that we’re suc­cess­ful in Novem­ber, and what­ever we deal with after that, we deal with after that,” Kelly said. “But I just think we need to keep our eyes on the main prize, and that’s Bi­den-Har­ris, and all the other Dems that are run­ning and flip­ping the Se­nate.”

Men­doza, a Madi­gan ally, said she’s “in agree­ment with both Mayor [Lori] Light­foot, with Gov. [J.B.] Pritzker, right now with Con­gress­woman Kelly, that if these al­le­ga­tions turn out to be true, then he should re­sign both of his po­si­tions im­me­di­ately. It’s re­ally that sim­ple.”

A hand­ful of state­house Democrats have called for Madi­gan to step down im­me­di­ately in light of the ComEd case, an al­leged bribery scheme that fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors con­tend ben­e­fited as­so­ciates of Madi­gan.

The speaker has not been ac­cused of a crime, has de­nied any wrong­do­ing and said he won’t step down.

The fa­mously tight-lipped face of the state Demo­cratic Party has also kept a low pro­file so far in the vir­tual con­ven­tion, speak­ing on cam­era for less than two min­utes to­tal through three nights of lo­cal del­e­ga­tion pro­gram­ming.

In a 53-sec­ond set of open­ing re­marks to the del­e­ga­tion’s Tues­day evening pro­gram, Madi­gan noted the 100th an­niver­sary of the 19th Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, which gave women the right to vote.

“While some women, par­tic­u­larly women of color, were left be­hind, it marked a ma­jor mile­stone in the fight for women’s rights,” Madi­gan said.

IM­AGE FROM VIDEO

Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madi­gan par­tic­i­pates in Sun­day’s Illi­nois Del­e­ga­tion Wel­come Re­cep­tion in we­bi­nar for­mat.

Rep. Robin Kelly

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