State Rep. Named Interim Director of Democratic Party of Illinois

Just over a month after Tim Mapes stepped down as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois over allegations of sexual harassment, a state representative was tapped to temporarily fill the role on Tuesday.

State Rep. Christian Mitchell was named the Interim Executive Director of DPI, according to a statement from the search committee. The committee of 18 women, co-chaired by lieutenant governor candidate state Rep. Juliana Stratton, among others, said they selected Mitchell with the support of House Speaker Michael Madigan, who chairs the party, as well as the gubernatorial campaign of J.B. Pritzker and Democratic leaders across the state.

Mitchell has represented the 26th District on Chicago's South Side since 2013. Prior to that, he was the Midwest director of paid media and polling for former President Barack Obama's campaign, as well as an advisor to Sen. Tammy Duckworth's campaign, according to the search committee.

He is the first African-American to serve as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, the committee said, and will be in that role through the election in November - at which point the committee will continue the search for a permanent director.

"As a community organizer, Christian is part of a new generation of leaders who know how to build grassroots movements and win campaigns," Stratton said in a statement. "I am confident he will play an essential role in building a party that reflects the diversity of our state and helps us win up and down the ticket, in every corner of Illinois."

"I look forward to doing the work necessary to assure Democratic victories up and down the ticket and charting a new and inclusive path forward for our party," Mitchell said in a statement. "Together, I know we can build a party that represents the diversity of our state, listens to our young people, and relentlessly fights for the values that make Illinois strong."

Mitchell said his first action in the role was to launch a $1 million voter registration initiative in partnership with Pritzker's campaign.

The search committee also announced Tuesday that DPI employee Emily Wurth had been promoted to chief financial officer of the organization, and Mary Morrissey to chief operating officer.

Morrissey's hiring in June raised questions about the process for selecting a new director, as Morrissey - a Madigan loyalist - was quietly brought back to the party following Mapes' resignation.

Mapes, who also served as Madigan's longtime legislative chief of staff, resigned just hours after an employee of the Illinois legislature detailed several claims of harassment and bullying.

Mapes was the third member of Madigan's staff to step down over harassment allegations in recent months.

Madigan then quickly announced the creation of the search committee, which a source close to the speaker called "an exercise in futility" after Morrissey's hiring - a move the powerful Democrat made without a formal announcement.

Morrissey spent more than 15 years working for Madigan on both the government and campaign sides before moving to work for his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, for roughly eight years, rising to the role of political director on her campaigns as well as her deputy chief of staff.

Several people had expressed interest in the role of DPI's executive director, including political consultant Alaina Hampton - who came forward in February with allegations of harassment against another longtime Madigan operative, as well as state Rep. Litesa Wallace.

Wallace, who was state Sen. Daniel Biss' running mate in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, will no longer serve in the legislature after January.

“Although there was no clear application, submission, or selection process for individuals who were interested in the position of Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois to participate in, an individual has been selected," she said in a statement.

"I would like to wish my colleague Rep. Christian Mitchell all the best in his new role as Executive Director of our party. I will continue efforts to move our party forward, which means ridding ourselves of the issues of power and oppression inherent to systemic racism and sexism, even as we work to elect candidates that value the rights of all," she added.

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