SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Moments after Michael Madigan resigned his seat in the legislature Thursday morning, tributes started to come in from his allies across the state.
House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside), who replaced Madigan at the top of the chamber last month, thanked Madigan for “strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield.”
“As of last month, Michael Madigan has dedicated 50 years of service to the Illinois House of Representatives. I thank the former Speaker for his sincere and meaningful contributions to our state,” Welch said. “We legalized same-sex marriage, abolished the death penalty and solidified abortion rights. Illinois also became the first state in the Midwest to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. These laws gave underserved populations a new sense of hope.”
Welch came under fire from Republicans when he disbanded a House Special Investigative Committee into Madigan’s involvement with the ComEd corruption case last fall.
Welch maintained that Madigan was entitled to due process, and that the investigation was “political theater” designed to drag Madigan’s name through the mud and damage Democrats’ at the ballot box.
“Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion and cooperation expected by our constituents,” Welch said. “I truly appreciate his contributions and I join Illinoisans across the state in wishing him well.”
The Illinois AFL-CIO saluted Madigan’s “unprecedented influence on our legislative process” in a statement recognizing his affinity with organized labor.
“Speaker Madigan knew better than anyone that leading the Legislature means keenly understanding each legislative district and how best to support legislators representing their constituents back home and in Springfield,” President Tim Drea said in a statement. “He knew how to bring people together behind the most important initiatives to move our state forward, while making the right political calculations to ensure his majorities grew and never lost touch with the will of the people.”
On Tuesday, before Madigan’s resignation had become public, Comptroller Susana Mendoza said, “how history will remember [Madigan] is certainly beyond my control or anybody else’s. I think that there will be good stories to tell. And there will be bad stories to tell.”
Mendoza, who served in the House under Madigan for a decade in the early 2000’s, noted the fierce opposition he faced from Republicans.
“For years, the Republicans particularly have blamed every problem, and the fact that they can’t get anything done in this state, because of one man,” she said. “Well, he’s gone. That is no longer their issue. It should no longer be an impediment to get the work of the people of Illinois done.
“They got what they wished for,” Mendoza said. “And I hope that the entire state sees it as an opportunity for everyone of both parties to have a greater voice in how we move the state forward, and how we champion the values that we think are important in looking out for people.”