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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 12:17 am

Democrats, take the high road. Dump Madigan.

 Life is full of “What if…?” questions. One of these questions preeminent in Illinois is, “What if Speaker Madigan was no longer speaker?”.

One of my “What if” questions is: How would I have voted for speaker if I had won my race for state representative?”

When I stated publicly last fall that I would not vote for Madigan to serve as speaker unless he proved that he offered an agenda that was something other than saying “no” to Rauner, an agenda that would help the people of downstate Illinois, including the 99th District, I was blasted by both political parties.

Illinois is one of the states that most resembles America as a whole with the urban/rural divide occurring at Interstate 80. Many states have this same dichotomy between their urban centers and their more rural communities. We, like the country, have a state full of Democrats in the urban area and Republicans elsewhere.

Speaker Madigan has failed to speak to the concerns, fears and dreams of our people outside of Chicagoland – much like the leadership of our national Democratic Party has failed to do the same in “flyover” country and our rural areas. The result is increasing polarization so that nothing gets done.

During the lame duck session, Gov. Rauner and the Four Tops made no progress on the state budget to get us out of this mess. Rauner only saw fit, with the launch of BossMadigan.com, to have his political machine attack Democratic members who have ever voted for Madigan to be speaker. Madigan, in return, continued his “no” campaign against the governor on all proposals – even though some may have merit if taken out of the budget fight. Neither knows the art of compromise, which is the bedrock of American politics.

Rauner’s fairly successful attacks on all Democrats by linking them to Madigan is enabled by Madigan’s own folly, which includes:

• The Democratic Party of Illinois abdicating its role as our state party in favor of being the political arm of the speaker alone rather than the political party operation of Democratic candidates statewide. “Being on the speaker’s list” during a campaign is necessary but most likely fatal if you are below I-80. Therefore, the speaker has tainted any Illinois Democrat’s ability to compete against our billionaire governor who spent a sizable amount of his own money linking every Democrat, including myself, to this speaker whether justified or not.

•Talented young leaders from across the state have not had an opportunity to advance in leadership. The House is not the place to do that. By all accounts, the speaker’s refusal to leave the stage has robbed us of having his talented daughter, our four-term attorney general, run for governor because she sees the inherent conflict. As a father of a six-year-old girl, I can’t imagine putting my career first and standing in the way of my daughter’s.

So, here we are. A new House session begins. Again, we have no budget in place. The players haven’t changed – nor has the game. Democrats failed to exhibit political courage.

It’s time to truly shake up Springfield. If Democrats cared about reclaiming the mantle as champion for the middle class in the age of Trump and Rauner, we could have started by telling Michael Madigan that he is relieved of his duties. His speakership spans four decades. It’s time for him to ride off into the sunset – not only as speaker, but as chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

As we’ve seen, Rauner cares more about getting rid of Madigan than he does about governing. As a Democrat, I’m willing to give him this one – for the good of the party and the good of the state. That one achievement in his first four-year term that has been a failure on all other counts won’t save him in 2018. But only with Madigan off the stage could Democrats claim the high road to defeat Rauner. Instead, every Illinois Democrat running for office in 2018 will again have to answer “The Madigan Question.”

Tony DelGiorno is a member of the Sangamon County Board. In 2016 he ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 99th District.


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