House race, Madigan’s fate significant to Illinois’ future


The journey to the November election has been dominated by a power struggle over the state’s budget between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic supermajority in the General Assembly.

Since taking office last year, Rauner has tried to introduce reform to the state, which hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001. However, Springfield Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, have blocked many of Rauner’s ideas and insisted that the governor’s agenda would not be in the best interest of the middle class.

With the election just months away, the importance of the House races cannot be understated.

“House races are always critical, because what stands in the balance right now is whether or not the Democrats and Speaker Mike Madigan will maintain their supermajority,” said Paul Lisnek, political analyst for WGN-TV and host of Politics Tonight.

Lisnek said as long as Democrats maintain the supermajority, they have the power to undo anything Rauner vetoes.

“People that look at the budget crisis and the state of Illinois’ finances are pretty much disgusted by the whole thing and sick of it all,” Lisnek said. “The problem is when they go to vote, very rarely does anyone throw out their own representative.”

This election, 27 Democratic incumbents and 16 Republican incumbents are attempting to hold onto their House seats. In the Senate, there are 12 contested races. However, Democrats in the senate have a larger margin, and don’t face the same level of threat to their supermajority as House Democrats.

“Right now, the loss of a supermajority is just at the line and a loss of a couple of seats could be costly to the speaker – so some of those races become critical,” Lisnek said.

In an attempt to break the supermajority, Rauner has renewed his call for legislative districts to be drawn by an independent commission instead of legislators. The governor also is pushing for term limits.

“Rauner talks about term limits and issues like that because what he’s trying to do is take power away from people who have been there forever,” Lisnek said.

First elected in November 1970 to represent House District 22, Madigan has been House Speaker since 1983 with the exception of two years when Republicans gained control over the House, Madigan is the longest-serving House speaker in Illinois history and one of the longest-serving state House speakers in U.S. history.