SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Ann Williams officially threw her hat into the ring Wednesday to become the next speaker of the Illinois House, making her the third Democrat to announce they were challenging embattled Speaker Michael Madigan.
Williams, 53, a Chicago attorney, released a statement on Wednesday, Jan. 6, hours ahead of a virtual candidates’ forum being hosted by the House Democratic Women’s Caucus.
“I will lead the House Democratic Caucus collaboratively – with integrity, open communication, and respect for the voices of all Illinoisans,” Williams said in the statement.
She joins Reps. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego and Kathleen Willis of Addison in the race for speaker. They, along with Madigan, were scheduled to make their case before the Democratic Women’s Caucus during a private virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Madigan, who has served as speaker for all but two years since 1983, has been struggling to maintain his grip on power since July when he was implicated in a years-long bribery scheme in which utility giant Commonwealth Edison awarded no-work jobs and lobbying contracts to his associates in order to curry his favor for legislation that benefited the company.
Madigan has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but the scandal has eroded his support within the Democratic caucus to the point where he no longer has the 60 votes needed to be reelected speaker.
Democrats will have 73 votes in the House when the 102nd General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, Jan. 13, but so far 19 of those Democrats have said publicly that they will not support Madigan for another term.
Williams, a member of the party’s liberal wing, was just reelected to her sixth term in the House. She currently chairs the House Energy and Environment Committee. In her statement, she said her priorities have included addressing the climate crisis and protecting access to reproductive health care.
Kifowit, 49, a Marine Corps veteran, has served in the House since 2013. A former Aurora city alderman, she currently chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, which recently held hearings recently about the COVID-19 outbreaks at state-run veterans homes.
Willis, 58, also has served in the House since 2013 and currently serves as the Democratic conference chairperson. She was the first member of the party’s leadership team to announce that she would not support Madigan for another term as speaker.