SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch is the top candidate to take the gavel for the Illinois House. The Hillside Democrat could become the first Black House Speaker in Illinois history if he gains 60 votes Wednesday. Welch gained traction as a candidate after longtime Speaker Mike Madigan announced he would suspend his campaign Monday.
Welch received support from 50 members during a caucus vote Tuesday night with Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) receiving 15 votes. Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) dropped out of the Speaker’s race Tuesday night. Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) ended her campaign for the post Monday night.
Welch received unanimous support from the Legislative Black Caucus late Monday night and an endorsement from the Latinx Caucus Tuesday. Both caucuses initially backed Madigan for a 19th term in the leadership role.
“This historic moment in Illinois and across the country calls for new representation and unity of democratic beliefs,” Welch stated. “I want to thank Speaker Madigan for his leadership – it has been a challenging year for us all but I am grateful for his commitment to serving the public.
Durkin doesn’t hold back
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin criticized Democrats for supporting Welch for Speaker. He still argues Welch acted as a shield for Madigan during the legislative investigation into the Chicago Democrat’s involvement in a bribery scheme with Commonwealth Edison. The investigation ended on December 14 with a vote failing to issue subpoenas for Madigan and other associates to appear before the committee.
“That, to me, is extremely disappointing and I believe that should disqualify to be in the position as Speaker of the House of Representatives,” Durkin said Tuesday. “I consider Chris Welch an extension of Mike Madigan.”
The Western Springs Republican also emphasized Madigan will pass the baton to someone that will continue the work of “Madigan Inc.”
Madigan Spokesman Steve Brown told reporters early Wednesday morning that Democrats wouldn’t hold another caucus meeting until 8 a.m. That means members could know their new leader before returning to the House floor to finish work for lame-duck session. The 102nd General Assembly Inauguration is scheduled for noon.