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Speaker Madigan among Lead Topics at Democratic Gubernatorial Debate

Brian Mackey
Democratic candidates for governor before a deabte Wednesday at the University of Illinois Springfield. From left: J.B. Pritzker, Tio Hardiman, Bob Daiber and Daniel Biss. Robert Marshall hadn't arrived yet and Chris Kennedy withdrew after a back injury.

Five of the Democrats running for Illinois governor met at a debate Wednesday night in Springfield. Among the prime topics was House Speaker Michael Madigan's handing of harassment in his political organization.

In less than two weeks, Madigan let go of two top aides — one for making unwanted advances, the other apparently for bullying subordinates and candidates.

State Sen. Daniel Biss said it’s time for Madigan to step down as head of the state Democratic Party. And Biss criticized Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker for refusing to agree.

“It took J.B. Pritzker a week to get permission from Mike Madigan to even name him in talking about the sexual harassment cover-up,” Biss said.

Pritzker replied: “It’s utterly ridiculous what Dan Biss has said."

But Pritzker has been reluctant to pile on the speaker, who's been criticized for moving too slowly and secretly in addressing complaints.

Pritzker is calling for an independent investigation.

Other candidates appearing at the debate were Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman, and Robert Marshall.

Chris Kennedy’s campaign says he injured his back while exercising Wednesday. They say he followed his doctor’s advice to avoid traveling to Springfield.

Brian Mackey covers Illinois state government and politics from the WUIS Statehouse bureau. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6020.