State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch is positioned to become Illinois' speaker of the House, ending Mike Madigan's decades-long occupation of that role, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Welch will also be the state's first Black speaker.
The new speaker gained the 60 votes he needed from the incoming 73-member majority Democratic caucus after making a final agreement Jan. 13 with his only remaining challenger, state Rep. Jay Hoffman. Hoffman, currently an assistant majority leader, said he will keep a leadership post under Welch.
This week, Welch faced questions about his treatment of women, including a 2002 incident in which an ex-girlfriend told police that Welch slammed her head into a kitchen countertop numerous times after she called him "a loser." "This verbal argument occurred nearly two decades ago," Welch said. "I will be honest that I have reconciled with the individual since that night."
Considered a Madigan ally, Welch chaired a special House investigating committee formed to look into Madigan's actions after he was implicated in July in a federal bribery scandal involving Commonwealth Edison.
Planned Parenthood Illinois Action President and CEO Jennifer Welch issued a press release to Windy City Times congratulating the politician. (They are not related.) "As a co-sponsor of both the Reproductive Health Act and HB40, which guarantee that abortion is safe and legal in Illinois, Speaker Welch has proven he is a champion for reproductive rights," Jennifer stated.
She continued, "We applaud his work requiring Illinois health insurance plans to cover contraception without a co-pay and his co-sponsorship of the Equal Rights Amendment. We look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Welch to ensure that Illinois is a safe haven for reproductive rights and access to healthcare."
Madigan announced Jan. 11 that he was suspending his bid for another term leading the chamber. Madigan held the post of House speaker for all but two years since 1983. He has served in the Illinois House since 1971.