Rep. Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch took Madigan’s place as House speaker last month
By Craig Wall and John Garcia, ABC7 News
After 50 years in the state legislature, Mike Madigan is finally calling it quits.
On Thursday, the legendary political figure sent a letter to the House speaker announcing that he will be resigning from the state representative post he has held since 1971. A second letter to the Clerk of the House tendered Madigan’s resignation, effective today.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois,” Madigan said in part. “The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”
He went on to say “I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference.”
His career began back in 1970 when he was first elected to represent Chicago’s Southwest Side. He has served as Speaker of the House for all but two years since 1983. But Madigan’s reign came to an end as the longest serving House speaker in U.S. history. Madigan served as speaker for all but two years since 1983. He was replaced in that position by Emanuel “Chris” Welch who became the first Black person in Illinois history to hold that position.
“I think we’re at a point where we’re changing the political history of the state of Illinois,” said Dick Simpson, political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Madigan was the last powerhouse still in power.”
Madigan is credited with many achievements in his career, including passing historic education reform, raising the minimum wage, abolishing the death penalty and passing the Marriage Equality Act.
His support crumbled under a federal corruption probe of ComEd where he was implicated, but not charged in a bribery and jobs scheme. Last month, when he realized he would not be able to garner the 60 votes needed to remain Speaker, he announced he would step aside.
In 2018 support for Madigan began to erode with the #MeToo movement when he faced sexual harassment issues with his staff and under his leadership.
Madigan’s career spanned nine Illinois governors and Chicago mayors and eight presidents. He is one of the last of the old-time political bosses, getting his start as a precinct captain under Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine.
The 78-year-old, who is also a property tax assessment attorney, remains the chairman of the state Democratic Party, where he still wields significant political power, with a political war chest.
His constituents generally said they thought he had done a good job in office.
“I think he’s done a lot for the community. I voted for him,” said Lindsay Koss, Garfield Park resident.
While political opponents highlight how he has contributed to the state’s debt, especially underfunded pensions, many residents of Madigan’s district are concerned about more tangible issues and the old school politician who takes care of his voters.
“He’s done all right by me,” said Mike Oziminski, Garfield Ridge resident.
This article originally appeared on ABC7 News.