The meeting to choose who will replace former Speaker of the Illinois House, Rep. Michael Madigan, in the General Assembly is expected to take place Sunday, with speculation for who might fill the role already underway.
Madigan announced Thursday that he would resign his seat in the Illinois legislature after 50 years in office, one month after losing his bid to remain speaker of the House, a position he held for decades as he became the single most powerful politician in the state.
But Madigan is also the Democratic committeeman of the 13th Ward, which gives him outsize influence in voting - a 56% weighted vote - to appoint a successor to finish out his term. He also remains the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, which he - a prodigious fundraiser - has long used to protect his majority in the House. His resignation announcement made no mention of his plans with regard to either of those roles.
Early rumors speculated 13th Ward Superintendent Moeen Zahdan could be in the running to replace Madigan, but a spokesperson for Madigan denied those rumors Friday morning.
"Moe Zahdan is one of the best public servants in the city, but he was never a candidate for 22nd District Illinois House Representative," Eileen Boyce said in a statement.
Some are calling for a Latino representative to fill the role as the 22nd District is home to the third-largest Latino population in the state. Several political groups are also calling for a transparent process.
Though Madigan initially said his resignation would take effect at the end of the month, his resignation letter later said it took effect Thursday.
The announcement came almost one month to the day from when Madigan ultimately lost his bid to remain speaker, when Democrats in the House backed Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch to become the first Black speaker in Illinois history and the chamber’s first new leader in decades.
Madigan had served as speaker for all but two years since 1983, making him the longest serving statehouse speaker in U.S. history.
Madigan's loss of the speakership and his subsequent resignation came after two former ComEd executives and two consultants, one a longtime Madigan associate and confidant, were indicted in November on multiple federal charges related to the alleged scheme to influence Madigan - identified in the indictment as "Public Official A" - in exchange for legislation favorable to the utility giant, prosecutors say.
Those charges were levied months after federal prosecutors in July filed a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd in which investigators revealed that the utility company agreed to pay $200 million dollars in fines and admitted to arranging jobs and payments for associates of an elected official, referred to only as “Public Official A," from 2011 to 2019 to curry favor with the official.
Madigan has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing and has repeatedly denied the allegations laid out by prosecutors, saying in part that if the conspiracy to influence him did occur, "it was never made known" to him and if it had been, it "would have been profoundly unwelcome."
Still, the deferred prosecution agreement and the charges against his associates prompted a total of 19 members of the House Democratic caucus to publicly announce last fall that they would not support his bid for another term as speaker. That left Madigan short of the 60 votes needed, and once those lawmakers made it clear they would not vote for him under any circumstances, he suspended his campaign for the post, which enabled Welch to coalesce support to win the role.
Though he gave no reason for his resignation in his announcement, Madigan said Thursday, "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."
"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 said.