SPRINGFIELD — House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was re-elected chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois Monday, and said members of his party will work together to oust incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner this fall.
“We’re united against Rauner,” Madigan said after the near-unanimous vote of the Democratic State Central Committee at the State House Inn in Springfield. “We’re united against (President Donald) Trump. Republicans are divided because of Rauner, which will be an advantage for the Democrats.”
Rauner won a narrow victory in the March primary over conservative challenger Jeanne Ives, a state representative from Wheaton.
Madigan’s election by the 36-member committee — a man and a woman from each of the state’s 18 congressional districts — came with one “no” vote, from Peter Janko of Marengo. Janko defeated an incumbent, Mark Guethle of North Aurora, in the March primary to get on the central committee. Janko was a supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for president in the 2016 primaries and said he was wrongly painted during his campaign for the state central committee as being in league with Republicans. He said voting against Madigan was “holding firm to my commitment and promise to my progressive base of support.”
Janko said he supports Madigan, 76, as House speaker but thinks the party needs “new blood, fresh ideas” at its helm.
But he also said he is seeking to “build bridges” between progressive and traditional wings of the party.
Janko had lunch with Madigan before the Monday meeting, and they appeared jointly later Monday by telephone on WCPT, a radio station billed as “Chicago’s progressive talk.” Janko said on that show that he would “like to see Michael Madigan earn my vote” in the future.
Rauner, seeking his second term as governor, has blamed Madigan for blocking his initiatives including cutbacks on clout of public-sector unions, while Madigan has said he fights policies that would hurt working people.
In a statement, Rauner’s campaign Monday said, that people “won’t hear a peep” from Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker about the re-election of Madigan to the party post.
“Republicans, Democrats and independents alike are sick of Madigan’s corrupt system,” the Rauner campaign statement said, adding that a Pritzker election would give Madigan “total control of the state.”
“J.B. is focused on his race and beating Bruce Rauner, and he’s proud that our campaign has built an infrastructure across this state to help Democrats up and down the ballot win in November,” said Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “As governor, J.B. will work hard to harness the grassroots energy shown by so many in our party during the last year, help bring new voices to the table and do everything he can to help Democrats win this election.”
Madigan also was asked if he’s backing state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, in McCann's recently announced campaign for governor under the Conservative Party banner. Rauner’s campaign says the “Madigan machine” backs McCann.
Madigan responded that Rauner’s people “ought to take a good look at themselves” and find something in the governor’s record on which to base a campaign.
“They never want to talk about their record on anything because they don’t have any record that they would be proud to talk about,” Madigan said. “So their method is to talk about other people, be critical of other people.”
As to being repeatedly called corrupt by Rauner — and having Rauner compare his fight to taking on the Mafia — Madigan said such words and comparisons shouldn’t be used “without solid evidence, which Rauner does not have. ... That speaks to Rauner’s mind ... (and) how he views attempting to gain success. And I think in the end the people of Illinois are going to come to understand that about Bruce Rauner. They’re going to vote him out of office.”
Madigan also faced attacks during the primary from some in his own party — including some candidates for governor who did not win. And he has had to deal with the issue of sexual harassment within his own party and political organization. One of the nominators of Madigan for another term as party chair on Monday was U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson. While seconding the nomination, she also said, “It’s no secret that change needs to happen,” and she wants the the organization to be more “transparent” and “inclusive” with respect for “every man and woman that has anything to do with this organization.”
Madigan, at the meeting, said that all staff and volunteers of the party and related committees will have mandatory sexual harassment training.
“I think that we’ve done a good amount of work” on the issue, Madigan told reporters, “but there’s more to be done.” He said “step number one is to respect other people, treat other people the way you want to be treated.”
About 100 people from a variety of labor organizations gathered outside the State House Inn before the meeting to show support for Madigan’s re-election.
Jamie Neuhaus, 44, of Lincoln, a member of Operating Engineers Local 965, was carrying a sign with a picture of Rauner and the words: “Danger: Hazardous to the working class.”
“Rauner is a slash-and-burn kind of guy” who is “not used to having somebody stand up to him,” Neuhaus said. Madigan, Neuhaus said, has been able to “stand up to Rauner and hold his ground.”