End of an era: Democrats poised to elect Welch as Madigan’s successor

Washington-DC

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stands in the back of the room during debate on HB 2170 during the lame-duck session for the Illinois House of Representatives held at the Bank of Springfield Center, Monday, January 11, 2021, in Springfield, Ill. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — The end of an era is drawing near in Illinois politics.

Fifty years after he was sworn in as a state legislator, Rep. Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) will no longer be the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

House Democrats are poised to elect a new speaker Wednesday morning before they cast their votes in public at the inauguration ceremonies that kick off the new 102nd General Assembly.

Rep. Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch (D-Hillside), an attorney, is expected to be sworn in as the new Speaker after consolidating enough support to win the contest. Welch only entered the race after Madigan suspended his campaign and gave his blessing for other candidates to jump in.

While a group comprised mostly of women blocked Madigan’s path to re-election, none of them could muster enough support to become speaker.

“You have to have the votes,” Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) said.

“I believe we had three women that put forth their bid,” she said early Wednesday morning after debate on the House floor dragged into the early hours of the morning. “At the time, [they] couldn’t bring together the coalition. So, now, here we are on the precipice of making history nevertheless, having the opportunity to elect the first African American in Illinois’ 202-year history. So that’s something to be incredibly proud of as well.”

Even before he locked up the support of his colleagues, Welch came under fire from House Republicans who called him an “extension of Madigan.”

Welch beat out Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) from the Metro East region. Hoffman, who enjoys strong labor backing, finished the race in second place.

The new 102nd General Assembly is scheduled to swear the oath of office at noon Wednesday.

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