Rep. Michael 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.
"It has been my great honor to serve the people of Illinois as speaker of the House and state representative of the 22nd District," Madigan said in a statement.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service. Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives," he continued. "I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House."
Madigan touted his work in school funding reform, increasing the minimum wage, passing marriage equality, criminal justice reforms and other initiatives shepherded through the legislature during his tenure.
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.
Welch was elected speaker in January on the 50th anniversary of when Madigan was first sworn into office as state representative for the 22nd District on Chicago's Southwest Side.
At the time of Welch's election, Madigan thanked his district and members of his caucus "for the faith and trust" they placed in him over the years, as well as his staff for their work, calling his terms "the honor of a lifetime."
"It is time for new leadership in the House. I wish all the best for Speaker-elect Welch as he begins a historic speakership," Madigan said. "It is my sincere hope today that the caucus I leave to him and to all who will serve alongside him is stronger than when I began. And as I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built—full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color, and members representing all parts of our state—I am confident Illinois remains in good hands.”
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.
Madigan's statement took particular aim at former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who served from 2015 to 2019 and constantly clashed with Madigan throughout his term - resulting in a more than two-year historic state budget impasse.
“When were confronted with the Rauner administration and the interests of the wealthy, who sought to weaken unions and the labor movement in Illinois, we stood up for working people," Madigan said. "Rauner went on to plunge our state into a budget crisis, nearly bankrupting social service agencies, eliminating funding for higher education, and racking up billions of dollars in state debt in the process. House Democrats stood as the last line of defense to protect our state from collapse."
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat who defeated Rauner in 2018, highlighted that struggle in his statement commending Madigan for his service.
“Michael J. Madigan and his family dedicated countless hours to serving Illinois families, particularly during the Rauner years, when he served as the bulwark against constant cruelty to the most vulnerable," Pritzker said. The people of Illinois have much to be grateful for thanks to his dedicated public service, and the many sacrifices he and his family made to make a difference in our lives."
Madigan is also the Democratic committeeman of the 13th Ward, which gives him outsize influence in voting 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 statement Thursday made no mention of his plans with regard to either of those roles.
“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," Madigan wrote.