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Miller: Invite list for Madigan event raises questions

Published: Monday, May 26, 2014 8:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, May 26, 2014 8:26 p.m. CST

There’s an old Statehouse saying that House Speaker Michael Madigan cares mostly about two votes each Democratic legislator makes: One to re-elect him Speaker, the other for his chamber’s operating rules.

Some, like Rep. Elaine Nekritz, have gotten away with voting against Madigan’s rules. Nekritz explained to Madigan why she voted against them, and he was impressed with her thoughtfulness. She’s since moved up the ladder to become one of the House’s most hardworking members who carries some major legislation. But nobody ever gets away with voting against Madigan for Speaker.

There’s no question that Democrat Will Guzzardi ran a highly effective outsider campaign against state Rep. Toni Berrios, D-Chicago, earlier this year. Guzzardi soundly defeated Rep. Berrios, the daughter of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios, and along the way told the Chicago Tribune, “The monolithic structures of power in Springfield aren’t doing any good for anyone.”

So, there have been some expectations that Guzzardi might not cast his vote for Michael Madigan’s re-election as Speaker next January; he said last week that he hasn’t yet made up his mind.

“That’s something I intend to figure out when the vote comes up,” Guzzardi said.

While voting against the Speaker would likely score points back home in his independent-minded district, Guzzardi said it’s still a “tough decision” because there’s “a lot hinging on it.”

Guzzardi said he talked with Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes after the primary. Mapes congratulated him and said that the Speaker hoped to sit down with him after the general election.

“We’ve got to figure out what sort of relationship we’re going to have,” Guzzardi said, adding, “I’m sure it’ll be a good one. I want to get stuff done.”

Those last two lines are probably the most important and telling. I reached out to Guzzardi because Madigan’s Democratic Majority PAC is hosting a meet and greet event with the Speaker’s top targeted candidates this month.

Rep. Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, is the only incumbent on the list, but he was appointed to the seat. He’s attending despite the fact that he has a hugely Democratic district. Guzzardi was not invited.

So, why, then, was Rep. Andrade invited? Andrade has a solidly Democratic district, after all. Well, Andrade is an appointed legislator, I was told, and that’s why he was invited while others weren’t.

That’s a bit of a stretch, but at least it shows that the Madigan folks aren’t publicly going out of their way to be hostile to Guzzardi. But fully embracing him could be a problem during the spring session, considering some of the residual bitterness about that primary battle among some legislators.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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