The Chicago Journal

Mike Madigan Ends a Half-Century Political Career

Image commercially licensed from: DepositPhotos

Former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, an iconic figure in Illinois politics, is stepping away from the political arena, marking the conclusion of a political journey spanning over fifty years. This decision comes in the midst of legal troubles and represents a significant shift in the landscape of Chicago’s political scene.

Read also: Allegations of Misconduct and Ethical Violations Against Chicago City Treasurer Unveiled

I. The End of an Era: Madigan’s Departure as 13th Ward Democratic Committeeperson

Former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, aged 81, has chosen not to seek reelection as the 13th Ward Democratic committeeperson, a role he has held since the era of Mayor Richard J. Daley and President Richard Nixon. This decision signifies the end of an influential and enduring political career.

Madigan’s decision not to run for committeeperson marks the conclusion of an era. For decades, he has been a towering presence in Illinois politics, wielding significant influence not only in the 13th Ward but also across the state. His tenure as committeeperson has spanned generations, making this transition a notable turning point in Chicago’s political landscape.

II. The Legacy of Ald. Marty Quinn: The Heir Apparent

Alderman Marty Quinn, who shared office space with Madigan and was his protege, is now in the spotlight as he circulates petitions for the 13th Ward spot. Quinn’s emergence as a potential successor underscores the continuity in Madigan’s political organization.

The transition from Madigan to Quinn represents a generational shift in leadership within the Democratic Party. Quinn, having learned the ropes from Madigan himself, carries the torch of the party’s traditions and strategies. Observers are keen to see how Quinn will navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by his new role.

III. Legal Troubles Loom: Madigan’s Racketeering Trial

Madigan faces a federal racketeering trial scheduled for April 1st, just thirteen days after the Illinois primary on March 19th. The charges against him include racketeering conspiracy, using interstate facilities for bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion. Madigan maintains his innocence.

The timing of Madigan’s trial adds a layer of complexity to his decision not to seek reelection. Legal proceedings of this magnitude can have far-reaching consequences, not only for the individual but also for the political landscape. The trial’s outcome will be closely watched by political observers and legal experts alike.

IV. Madigan’s Previous Resignations and the Growing Pressure

Madigan’s decision to not run for committee person comes after his resignation from the Illinois House seat in February 2021, a position he had held since 1971. His departure from the speakership and leadership of the Illinois Democratic Party had already signaled significant changes in the state’s political landscape.

Madigan’s earlier resignations were accompanied by growing pressure from various quarters. His influence had waned, and he had become a contentious figure within his own party. The evolving dynamics of Illinois politics played a role in his decisions and reflect the shifting tides of political power.

V. Financial Implications: Campaign Funds and Legal Expenses

As of June 30th, Madigan’s campaign committee had $6,380,227.32 in cash on hand. Since January 2020, he has expended nearly $9 million on legal fees using campaign funds. The financial aspects of his exit raise questions about the future use of these resources.

The significant amount of campaign funds at Madigan’s disposal raises questions about their potential impact on the political landscape. Will these funds be redirected towards supporting the Democratic Party, or will they remain under Madigan’s control, potentially influencing political decisions from behind the scenes?

VI. Madigan’s Political Origins: From a Dump Truck to Political Power

Mike Madigan’s political journey began in the 13th Ward in the 1960s when he worked as a laborer, hauling materials away from construction sites. His rise to power in Chicago politics traces its roots back to these humble beginnings.

Madigan’s ascent from a blue-collar job to the upper echelons of political power is a testament to his resilience and political acumen. His story serves as an inspiration to many aspiring politicians who aim to make a mark in the world of politics through hard work and determination.

VII. The Velvet Hammer: Madigan’s Leadership Style

Known for his quiet yet forceful leadership style, Madigan’s impact on Illinois politics is characterized by his incremental departure from key positions of power. He served as speaker from 1983 until 2021, with a brief interruption in 1995, making him a unique figure in American legislative leadership.

Madigan’s leadership style earned him the moniker “Velvet Hammer.” This approach allowed him to navigate the often turbulent waters of Illinois politics with a steady hand. His departure leaves a void in the state’s political landscape that will be challenging to fill.

VIII. The End of an Era and Chicago’s Political Future

While Madigan’s departure from his earliest elected position may not represent a seismic shift in Chicago politics, it raises questions about the future of his political organization. Some, like State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, have voiced concerns about potential continuity in the practices associated with Madigan’s leadership.

The question of how Madigan’s exit will impact Chicago’s political future remains open. Will there be a reconfiguration of power dynamics within the Democratic Party, or will existing structures persist? These are questions that will shape the political landscape in the coming years.


Mike Madigan’s decision to step down as the 13th Ward Democratic committee person marks the conclusion of an influential political career. His legal challenges, financial resources, and the potential succession of Ald. Marty Quinn adds layers of complexity to this political transition. As Illinois and Chicago politics move forward, the legacy of Mike Madigan will continue to loom large.