This editorial appeared in the Jan. 6, 2019, edition of the (Champaign) News-Gazette:
Illinois is about to swear in six Democratic statewide officeholders and a host of new Democratic lawmakers, but the star of a new 30-second TV spot is the party's wildly unpopular chairman, House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The blue wave that swamped Illinois politics in November will translate into a bigger Democratic majority in the General Assembly that will be sworn in Wednesday. And on Jan. 14, six Democrats will be inaugurated as statewide officeholders, occupying every one of the constitutional offices from governor to treasurer.
But who's the star of a 30-second TV commercial that is running statewide through Tuesday? Why it's Michael Madigan, the 76-year-old chairman of the Democratic Party, a fixture in the Statehouse since 1971 and the man who last year was found to be the least popular among the friendless few of Donald Trump, Bruce Rauner and himself. Polling last February by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that Madigan had a 21 percent approval rate and a 68 percent disapproval rate, including 49 percent who strongly disapproved of him.
Part of that unpopularity could be attributed to Rauner's five-year campaign to portray Madigan as responsible for every ill in Illinois.
But it's Madigan who, as usual, gets the last laugh. He'll be back as speaker and head of the Democratic Party while Rauner leaves Springfield after one fruitless term.
After nearly 50 years in Springfield, it appears that Madigan has no intention of leaving voluntarily, as much as Republicans and even some Democrats would prefer. Why else would he spend nearly $70,000 from his Friends of Madigan campaign fund at four broadcast TV stations in the Champaign-Springfield market — and more elsewhere around Illinois — to congratulate himself, dance on Rauner's political grave and begin a rehabilitation campaign?
The only Democratic officeholder featured in the spot is Madigan (the only Republican is Trump), who closes with this line: "In the fights that lie ahead, Democrats are on your side."
But those efforts apparently don't include stabilizing Illinois' economy, its horribly out of balance budget or fixing the government pension mess, but instead focus on a Madigan favorite: ensuring the wealthy "pay their fair share, so we can get a break," as a narrator says. If only it was that easy.