Michael J. Madigan

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Michael J. Madigan

b. April 19, 1942

Illinois, Speaker of the House (1983-1994, 1997-)
Illinois, House Majority Leader, (1977-1980)
Illinois, House Minority Leader, (1980-1983, 1994-1996)
Illinois, Democratic Party Chairman (1998-)
Illinois, State Representative (1970-)
Illinois, State Constitutional Delegate (1970)
Illinois, 3rd District Democratic State Central Committeeman (2002-)
Chicago, 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman (1969-)

It is hard to imagine the Illinois political landscape without the towering presence of Michael J. Madigan. As Speaker of the Illinois House and Chair of Illinois Democratic Party, Madigan's influence reaches into almost every corner of the state - so much so that many politicians attribute actions to Madigan, without any real evidence of its validity. He is so pervasive, just about anything could be attributed to his influence.

Madigan started out as a precinct captain under his father, 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman, Michael J. Madigan, Sr. Michael Sr. also happened to have a clouted job at the Cook County Clerk, the same place as future Mayor Richard J. Daley. The elder Madigan and Daley were good friends. When Madigan Sr. died and the younger took his Committeeman post as the youngest Committeeman in the city, Richard J. Daley became a surrogate father and helped him get elected in quick succession as a delegate to the new state Constitutional Convention and then to the State House.

Although Madigan quickly moved up in House leadership, working to elect a Democratic majority and becoming Speaker in 1980, he clashed with Mayor Jane Byrne and lost Chicago patronage under her administration. Madigan also supported Edward Burke over the younger Richard M. Daley for Cook County State's Attorney in 1980, another move that hurt his patronage power base when Daley defeated Burke. But Madigan went fully behind Richard M. Daley when he first ran for mayor in 1983 and then successfully in 1989. Since then, Madigan and Daley, while maybe not inseparable, have never openly expressed disagreement or ever expressed an opinion on how each other's sphere of government should be run.

As Speaker of the Illinois House, Madigan's control is just short of total. Through his three decades of control of the House Democratic Caucus, Madigan has constructed an unparalleled campaign machinery and fundraising operation. While House members may raise tens of thousands of dollars a year, the fact that no legislation can pass in the House without Madigan's say compels millions of dollars to flow into Madigan's campaign coffers every year. And every year, for both state and municipal elections, hundreds of highly trained and competent twenty-somethings take leave from Madigan's government staff to win elections. As a result, dozens of Democratic mayors across the state, as well as most every member of the Illinois House, owe him their seats. As a result, when a call comes from "the Speaker," Illinois' leaders jump to the phone.

As remarkable as his control of the House is, Madigan's control of the Illinois Democratic Party is greater. As Chair of the Party Madigan controls slating, the naming of many presidential delegates, and the filling of State Central Committee vacancies when they occur.

Over his thirty years of Illinois House leadership, Madigan has created a series of important political operatives including lobbyist Jim Morphew, lobbyist Michael Kasper, former Chief of Staff Gary LaPaille, Chicago Ald. Brendan Reilly and current Chief of Staff Tim Mapes, each of whom continue to support Madigan in various non-governmental roles. Madigan's complete control over legislation in the House also gives him considerable influence over lobbyists, including Cook County Democratic Party Chair Joseph Berrios, who lobbies Madigan on state issues.

Perhaps Madigan's most important accomplishment has been the election of his adopted daughter, Lisa Madigan, to Illinois Attorney General in 2002. Widely popular, Lisa was often mentioned as a successor to current Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2010 and publicly mulled running for the job in 2014 against Democrat Pat Quinn. But Democratic Party soldiers rebelled against the idea of having a father -daughter State Speaker-Governor team, and whispers emerged that Lisa would not run unless her father promised to resign if she won, a not unreasonable request considering he had already been Speaker for close to 30 years by then.

But more whispers emerged that Speaker Madigan would not promise to step down. So, Lisa Madigan chose not to run for governor, winning a handy 84% of the vote for Attorney General in 2014.

Employment and Electoral History

Prior to becoming House leader (which unlike ordinary Representatives is a full-time job), Madigan worked in the City of Chicago law department, was a Secretary for 13th Ward Alderman David Healy and was a Illinois Commerce Commission hearing officer. Madigan operates a law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, which represents a number of Illinois municipalities and specializes in property tax adjudication in Cook County.


  • St. Adrian Elementary School
  • St. Ignatius College Prep
  • University of Notre Dame, B.A.
  • Loyola University Law School, J.D.

Important Political Events

  • 1969, Appointed 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman by ward precinct captains
  • 1970, Elected Illinois Constitutional Convention Delegate
  • 1970, Elected State Representative
  • 1977, Elected Illinois House Majority Leader by House Democratic Caucus, replacing Gerald Shea
  • 1980, Demoted to House Minority Leader when Republicans win majority in House
  • 1983, Elected Speaker of the House by House Democratic Caucus when Democrats win majority in House
  • 1994, Demoted to House Minority Leader when Republicans win majority in House
  • 1997, Elected Speaker of the House by House Democratic Caucus when Democrats win majority in House
  • 1998, Appointed Chair, Democratic Party of Illinois, replacing Gary LaPaille
  • 2002, Daughter Lisa Madigan Elected Illinois Attorney General


Chicago Politics: Ward by Ward, David K. Fremon, 1989.