EYE ON ILLINOIS: Post-election changes at the top, but Madigan is digging in

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The Illinois General Assembly has 177 members, but nothing significant happens without the direct involvement of four of them — the House speaker, Senate president and minority leaders from each chamber.

As such, there was little surprise that with the jury still out on a few legislative races Wednesday, and therefore the official partisan balance, three of the four leaders were in the news.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin announced he’ll not only seek to retain that spot but that he already secured majority support from his caucus. His Senate counterpart Bill Brady, however, is off the job.

“While I am proud of my record and the work our caucus has done, I believe it is the right time for a new Senate Republican Leader when the new 102nd General Assembly is sworn in next January,” Brady said in a Wednesday morning statement.

Brady suggested picking his replacement during the fall veto session. But Thursday, Sen. Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, said his colleagues chose him to replace Brady. Mark Maxwell, Capitol Bureau chief for WCIA-TV, had suggested Sen. Jason Barickman, of Bloomington, also was a frontrunner. Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller said the choice wasn’t unanimous.

Brady’s statement also referenced his pledge to “not pursue any other elected office during” while leader. With both Gov. JB Pritzker up for re-election in 2022, is Brady ready for a fourth crack at the state’s top job? Or might he challenge U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth?

Duckworth’s colleague Dick Durbin, fresh off his own convincing re-election to a fifth term, made perhaps the biggest splash by invoking Michael Madigan in a WTTW-TV interview. In addition to being House Speaker, Madigan also chairs the state Democratic party. Durbin clearly hung statehouse and Supreme Court losses on Madigan, saying candidates “paid a heavy price” for being tied to Madigan’s considerable campaign contributions.

Durbin’s remarks were stronger than his August comments following reports of Madigan’s implication in a federal bribery investigation focused on ComEd. It was “disconcerting to see the price they paid,” Durbin said Wednesday. Thursday, On Pritzker publicly sided with Durbin.

In July I called Madigan “a heavy anchor” who could doom the graduated income tax amendment referendum and legislative races. With one challenger for his Speaker post already (Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego), Durbin implying the party needs new leadership, several key 2022 races and the bribery investigation looming, Madigan might be wise to join Brady in passing his baton.

All that said, if Madigan hasn’t yet ceded power there’s little likelihood he’d change course? There are legislative maps to be drawn, bills to stifle and a new jousting opponent.

Madigan has done virtually everything on his own terms. Why would stepping down be any different?

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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November 6, 2020 at 10:06AM

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