'It's a new day in Illinois': Kifowit, others from suburbs happy to see Welch oust Madigan

  • State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego speaks with Rep. Michael Madigan before the swearing in ceremony for the 102nd General Assembly Wednesday in Springfield. She had been running to replace Madigan as speaker, but House Democrats ultimately elected Rep. Chris Welch of Chicago.

    State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego speaks with Rep. Michael Madigan before the swearing in ceremony for the 102nd General Assembly Wednesday in Springfield. She had been running to replace Madigan as speaker, but House Democrats ultimately elected Rep. Chris Welch of Chicago. Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

 
 
Updated 1/13/2021 7:17 PM

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit said some called her crazy in October when she launched a public campaign to replace Michael Madigan as House speaker, a role he held for 36 of the past 38 years.

On Wednesday, Kifowit declared Madigan's ouster a victory, even though she was not the one elevated in his stead.

 

Kifowit, a Democrat from Oswego, ultimately joined 69 other Democratic lawmakers in voting for Rep. Chris Welch, a Democrat from Hillside who will be the first Black person to serve as speaker. Kifowit and other suburban Democratic lawmakers, all of whom voted for Welch, are calling the end of Madigan's speakership a "new day" in Illinois politics.

"I think it's great. I applaud him and I think we're going to work great together," Kifowit said of Welch. "It's a new day in Illinois and I am very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead in working with fresh eyes, fresh perspective, and just really proud to have voted for him."

Kifowit ended her bid for speaker during a closed-session Democratic caucus this week when she said it became clear she did not have a path to the 60 votes needed to become speaker. She said her ultimate goal was always to unseat Madigan.

"There is a new speaker in Illinois ... how can (people) not be excited?" Kifowit said. "Things are definitely going to be different going forward, and I am very optimistic and excited about the possibilities of having just a different view of things."

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Welch emerged as a front-runner for the role late Tuesday night, passing Kifowit and Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago in the race for votes. Despite a push by the Democratic Women's Caucus to get a woman elected speaker, those in the caucus said they were still happy to see the change in leadership.

"I am so proud to be a part of the new day in Illinois politics and part of living history that happened today with Speaker Welch now sitting in the speaker chair," said Rep. Anna Stava-Murray of Naperville, who in 2019 was the only Democrat in the House not to vote for Madigan for speaker.

Stava-Murray said Welch united the caucus in his bid for speaker and she believes he will be able to unite the entire 118-member House.

Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Democrat from Northbrook, backed Williams early in the week but said he was happy to vote for Welch after Williams dropped out of the race.

"(Welch is) just someone who is going to be a rock for you and really has been that way for me and a lot of my colleagues," Carroll said. "I think we found a guy that really has our best interest at heart and certainly will take this caucus in a new direction."

The three Democrats not voting for Welch are Reps. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, who did not vote; Lance Yednock of Ottawa, who voted "present"; and Jaime Andrade of Chicago, who is reportedly home fighting COVID-19.

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