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Illinois replaces longest-serving legislative leader in US

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Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM/AP) — Illinois House Democrats have thrown their support behind Emanuel “Chris” Welch to lead the chamber as Michael Madigan stepped aside from the job he'd held for nearly 40 years.

Madigan lost support among his colleagues after he was implicated in the ComEd bribery scandal earlier this year.

Madigan issued a statement conceding that “it is time for new leadership in the House” after a morning Democratic caucus cast a majority of its votes for Welch, of the Chicago suburb of Hillside.

“As I prepare to pass the Speaker’s gavel to a new generation of Democratic leadership, I want to thank the people of my district and the members of the House Democratic Caucus for the faith and trust they have placed in me over the years. I want to thank my staff for their hard work on behalf of every member of this caucus. It has been the honor of a lifetime to help bring people of different experiences and backgrounds together to serve our state.

“It is time for new leadership in the House. I wish all the best for Speaker-elect Welch as he begins a historic speakership. It is my sincere hope today that the caucus I leave to him and to all who will serve alongside him is stronger than when I began. And as I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built—full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color, and members representing all parts of our state—I am confident Illinois remains in good hands.”

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan

Madigan, the longest-serving legislative leader in modern U.S. history, failed in a Sunday test vote to get the 60 votes required to reclaim the gavel, largely because of a federal bribery investigation that’s implicated him.

Gov. JB Pritzker also released a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Representative Welch on his historic win as he becomes our state’s first Black Speaker of the House,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “Speaker Welch has a record of championing legislation that has improved the lives of hard working Illinoisans, and I have enjoyed working with him to move our state forward. As Governor, I believe strongly that it is incumbent upon me to work with the General Assembly’s leaders who are chosen by their caucuses, and I look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Welch on our shared agenda.” 

“I also want to recognize Speaker Madigan for his decades of service to the state of Illinois. Years from now, when historians focus on the legacy of the General Assemblies he has led, they will see beyond this chapter to the many achievements in the fight to lift up working families and those most in need, and they will especially acknowledge the necessary firewall that was built in the fight against Governor Rauner’s destructive agenda. 

Gov. JB Pritzker

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Associated Press

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