Democrats, scared straight by election results, poised to oust political boss of the nation’s most corrupt state

One of the most significant emerging Democrat defeats appears to be underway in Illinois, where donkey state legislators – pols that escaped with their seats -- are scared of voters’ wrath over their party’s boss of bosses.   The man who has run that state for decades – a far more powerful than any governor – may be losing his perch. The Chicago Tribune reports:

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, long undisputed in his role as Illinois’ [sic] most powerful politician, now finds his leadership hanging on the precipice as the state faces one of the most tumultuous periods in its history.

A day after his closest political ally was indicted in a bribery and influence-buying scheme involving Commonwealth Edison, Madigan on Thursday saw eight more of his rank-and-file House members pledge not to reelect him when lawmakers reconvene in January.

Michael Madigan Photo credit: Illinoislawmakers  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Illinois voters didn’t turn the state red, as Democrats retain control of the legislative and executive branches. But they did send a message to the ruling party:

Illinois Democrats, like those nationally, anticipated the outcome of the Nov. 3 election would be a huge blue wave spurred by four controversial years under Republican President Donald Trump.

Instead, Democrats saw voters resoundingly reject Pritzker’s prized agenda item, replacing the state’s constitutionally mandated flat-rate income tax with a graduated-rate tax; turn down Democratic Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride’s bid for retention; and defeat central Illinois congressional candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan’s effort to unseat four-term GOP U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis.

While the outpouring of voters spurred by Trump’s reelection campaign was not expected by Democrats, the party’s candidates also said that instead of talking to voters about their issues during the campaign, they frequently were asked how they felt about Madigan. After an intense political year, some say he has become more than a distraction and is now a detriment.

Such was the case for Dick Durbin, the state’s senior Democratic senator, who attributed Londrigan’s defeat to efforts by Davis’ camp to tie her to Madigan.

With Durbin, fellow U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Pritzker all calling for new leadership of the party, rank-and-file members were forced to deal with questions about whether Madigan should step down from his governmental or party leadership, or both.

We’ve been following Madigan’s rule of Illinois for many years, including the Commonwealth Edison scandal

Madigan is both ruthless and resourceful, so it is too soon to write his political obituary. I recall when, in 1995, the only politician comparable to Madigan retained his control of a state legislative body through stunning legerdemain. I refer to Kamala Harris’s former lover and political patron, the man who gave her a start in politics while lying on her back, Willie Brown. From the New York Times almost 25 years ago:

Defying all political odds and outmaneuvering the Assembly's new Republican plurality, Willie L. Brown Jr. executed the boldest move of his long career in Democratic politics late Monday night to claim the post of Speaker for a record eighth two-year term.

After seven weeks of deadlock in which the Assembly's 40 Republicans, 39 Democrats and one independent wrestled over who would be the Speaker for the term that began in December, Mr. Brown engineered the expulsion of a Republican, Richard Mountjoy, on the ground that Mr. Mountjoy was elected to both the Senate and the Assembly in November and could not legally serve in both.

California and Illinois share many political characteristics. Corrupt one-party rule. Outrageous salaries and pensions for state workers. And looming debt and cumulative liabilities that threaten bankruptcy. But California saw Republicans turn over Democrat control of a number of House seats, even as Dems retain control of the state government.  At least the Dems in Illinois are scared of their corrupt control being exposed. In California, they remain bulletproof in their own minds.


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