CHICAGO - At least three women are vying to lead Illinois’ Democratic Party, after the resignation of longtime chairman Mike Madigan.
Governor JB Pritzker is backing City Council floor leader Alderman Michelle Harris to lead the Illinois Democratic Party. Her eighth ward precinct organization has been legendary on the South Side.
"I have tremendous faith in Michelle Harris. She is somebody who has delivered for Democratic candidates...to get your voters out," Pritzker said.
You would never know it from Madigan's long reign as state Democratic Party chairman, but that job holds very little inherent power. What enabled Madigan to raise millions of campaign dollars was his role as House speaker, where he exercised a stranglehold over lawmaking.
A veteran lawmaker, Elgin’s State Senator Cristina Castro, hopes to become the first Latina to lead the state Democratic Party. Her allies argue Hispanics have been virtually shut out of key posts.
While Alderman Harris is Mayor Lori Lightfoot's City Council floor leader, the mayor declined to choose between her and another Black woman in the contest, south suburban Congresswoman Robin Kelly.
"I love both Robin Kelly and Michelle Harris. They are both my friends. They have both supported me. And I know whoever gets it is going to do a tremendous job," Lightfoot said.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, backs Alderman Harris, while Senator Dick Durbin, of Springfield, is working hard for Congresswoman Kelly, writing: "Robin spent twenty years in Peoria. She’s traveled to every corner of Illinois as a statewide candidate... I cannot think of a better person to lead Democrats moving forward in Illinois."
Far more powerful than the state Democratic chair are party leaders at the county level, especially in Cook County, where Democratic chairwoman Toni Preckwinkle's slatemaking can usually make or break dozens of circuit court judges at every election.