The man most responsible for the dreadful condition of Illinois politics and the state’s finance has finally suffered a tentative defeat. On Monday Mike Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983, said he will suspend his attempt to seek the 60 votes he needs for another term as the boss.
Mr. Madigan said he will wait and see if anyone else can get enough votes after he won only 51 in a Democratic caucus vote on Sunday. State Rep. Ann Williams finished second with 18 votes and another competitor had three. So Mr. Madigan still may keep the job in the end if he can threaten or buy off enough of the dissenters.
It’s amazing that he still received 51 votes. Mr. Madigan’s associates have been indicted in a corruption probe in which Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay a $200 million fine for a scheme to curry favor with the speaker. He says he did nothing wrong. He is also chair of the state Democratic Party, which he can use to make or break legislative careers.
Since he’s been speaker, the once great Prairie State has seen its credit rating fall from one of the highest to the worst in the country. Its citizens are fleeing for better-run neighbors and low-tax Florida. But even at 78 years old, he has managed to hold on to power like the Chicago ward boss he once was. Mr. Madigan’s political demise won’t save Illinois by itself, but it would be a start.