Illinois Democrats struggle with questions about Madigan

(The Center Square) – As Illinois’ Democratic Party bolsters support for national, state and local candidates in an unorthodox virtual convention, its most prominent members are still hesitant to address the elephant in the room.

House Speaker and state party Chairman Michael Madigan has appeared on each day of the party convention so far, relegated to prepared opening remarks, and hanging in the corner of the patchwork of a video conference.

He lords over the proceedings just weeks after being labeled “Public Official A” in a patronage scheme admitted by ComEd. The utility entered a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last month and agreed to pay $200 million in fines for its role in a bribery scheme benefiting Madigan associates in exchange for favorable legislation.

Reporters, through a party spokeswoman, have asked several of the state’s more prominent Democrats about their position on Madigan and whether he should resign as head of the state party.

After a prolonged silence, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly said her priority is electing more Democrats but added that, if the allegations against Madigan are true, he should resign.

“If these facts are proven to be true, he should look at stepping down,” she said.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Madigan ally during her time as a state representative, echoed Kelly’s thoughts.

“If these allegations turn out to be true, then he should resign both of his positions immediately,” she said.

Marie Newman, a La Grange businesswoman who defeated Madigan ally Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary, previously said Madigan should step down “immediately” for his failure to protect women while the accusations of the #MeToo movement swirled. On Wednesday, she wouldn’t say that the speaker and party head should resign.

“I’m infuriated by the ComEd scandal,” she said. “We will not let us be distracted by that kind of thing. This is the type of corporate scandal that the dictator-in-chief is famous for and we, as a Democratic Party, have to come to the floor, be united, and fight this tooth-and-nail,” referring to President Donald Trump.

Newman, if elected to the Democratic-leaning district, would be Madigan’s congresswoman.

Her campaign later told the Chicago Sun-Times that Madigan should step down if the allegations against him are true but still stood by her call for him to resign regarding the harassment claims.

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten told WTTW Wednesday that it would be a double-standard for Democrats, who voted to impeach President Donald Trump, not to do their due diligence in getting to the bottom of the claims against Madigan.

“I am not going to sit here right now and say that someone is guilty for political reasons, but the allegations are extremely concerning,” Casten said. “We should make sure that we find out where the truth is and, if they are in fact true, I agree with Congresswoman Kelly in that he should resign and maybe forcibly resign.”

Madigan has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

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