Madigan Facing Future, but Not as `Mr. Speaker'

By Gauen, Pat | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 23, 1995 | Go to article overview

Madigan Facing Future, but Not as `Mr. Speaker'


Gauen, Pat, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


MICHAEL MADIGAN SMILED almost as usual, even in the midst of events that for him were anything but usual.

After 12 years of smiling the confident smile of the cat who ate - or was about to eat - the mouse, this time the longtime speaker of the Illinois House wore the nervous smile of the rodent dinner-elect.

Year after year, the Chicago Democrat listened to Republican governors outline grandiose plans for state progress, only to use his legislative majority to dismantle the pieces and reassemble them to fit his own party's blueprint.

But voters put handwriting on the wall in 1992, taking away Democratic control of the Senate; then they scrawled it right on Madigan's face in 1994 by taking away his House majority too.

So it was a newly eviserated and maybe even humbled Madigan whose office I visited for a response just minutes after Gov. Jim Edgar's 1995 "State of the State" address.

The assembled members of the capital press pack fought desperately - and only half-successfully - to stop themselves from addressing him as "Mister Speaker." Old habits, you know.

I never heard anybody call him "Mister Minority Leader." It would have been accurate now, but taunting as well, considering his years of work trying to relegate that title to absolute political impotence.

Republican Lee Daniels didn't enjoy that effort very much, and so is making the most of their job trade. Speaker Daniels is doing plenty relegating of his own.

Madigan now occupies Daniels' old digs, a third-floor statehouse suite above the governor's office. It is impressive, but it's not the symbolic seat of power off the hallway behind the House podium, where Daniels is eagerly beginning to test the invisible levers of power that Madigan wielded so adeptly and so long.

It is impossible to fully describe the depth of this fall for Madigan, whose enjoyment of raw power was matched only by his prowess with it.

A shrewd Chicago lawyer who was virtually unknown in Metro East, Madigan kept a short leash on his statewide flock, setting up complex Machiavellian strategies to enforce exactly the votes he wanted at exactly the times he wanted them.

Miscreants found themselves swiftly dispatched up Sewage Creek without a paddle. …

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