This story has been updated
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
Former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, 78, announced Thursday he will step down from the state House of Representatives after 50 years in office.
“I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference,” Madigan wrote in a lengthy emailed statement.
His initial statement said he plans to retire by the end of the month, but by the end of Thursday the letter he submitted to the clerk of the Illinois House said his resignation was effective immediately, a spokesperson confirmed. His current term, which he won in November, would have ended in January 2023.
Madigan, who was the longest serving state House speaker in the country, failed to earn enough support to win another term as speaker, resulting in the election last month of Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
Madigan’s support within the Democratic caucus began to fracture after federal prosecutors revealed last July that utility giant Commonwealth Edison admitted its executives were bribing associates of Madigan in a yearslong scheme in order to ensure legislation favorable to the company.
Although he has not been charged and he denies wrongdoing, Madigan was forced on the defensive after Republican lawmakers launched a special committee to investigate his involvement in the scheme. That committee ended with a partisan finding that Madigan did not commit conduct unbecoming of a lawmaker.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois,” Madigan said in the statement.
Madigan, who was raised in the Clearing neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side, is a graduate of Notre Dame University and Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
In 1969, just two years after graduating law school, Madigan was elected the Democratic committeeman for the city’s 13th ward, and slated as a delegate to the 1970 Constitutional Convention. In 1970, he was first elected to represent the 22nd district, which covers a portion of the southwest side of Chicago.
He was first elected Speaker of the House in 1983 and served, for all but two years, until January 2021. In 1998, he was elected to serve as Democratic Party chair, a post he continues to hold.
His term as party chair ends in March 2022. A spokesperson for Madigan did not comment on his plans for that role.
During his five decades in the General Assembly, Madigan has overseen significant legislative achievements that include the passage of a same-sex marriage law and raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
Welch, D-Hillside, said in a written statement that he appreciates Madigan’s contributions and wishes him well.
“Under him, we’ve had strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield. We legalized same-sex marriage, abolished the death penalty and solidified abortion rights. Illinois also became the first state in the Midwest to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. These laws gave underserved populations a new sense of hope,” Welch said.
“Now we must build on that with a new generation of leadership focused on racial and gender equity in all dimensions, improving government transparency, and leading with the kind of conviction, compassion and cooperation expected by our constituents.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.