SPRINGFIELD -- House Speaker Michael Madigan has announced Monday he will suspend his campaign for House Speaker of the 102nd General Assembly, but his statement also made it clear he was not withdrawing from the race.
"This is not a withdrawal. I have suspended my campaign for speaker," Madigan said in a statement released by his office Monday morning. "As I have said many times in the past, I have always put the best interest of the House Democratic Caucus and our members first. The House Democratic Caucus can work to find someone, other than me, to get 60 votes for Speaker."
The last sentence of the brief statement is indicative of the uphill battle Madigan's challengers will have to climb -- they will need 60 votes, or 42 more than any challenger appeared to have Sunday night.
The House speaker is chosen by House members, and can receive both Republican and Democratic votes. There are 73 Democrats and 45 Republicans who will be seated in the 102nd General Assembly.
Traditionally, however, a majority party speaker receives votes from members of their own party.
In the first closed-door unofficial ballot conducted between Democrats in a private room at the Bank of Springfield Center on Sunday night, Madigan received 51 votes, according to several reports confirmed by Capitol News Illinois.
The speaker, also has the endorsement of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus -- two key voting blocs that make up the majority of his support, although some individual members of those caucuses have said they would not vote for Madigan.
The second leading vote-getter in the closed-door meeting was Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, who had just 18 votes. Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, had three votes. Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, dropped out of the race before the vote, giving her support to Williams.
The official vote does not happen until Wednesday, when the 102nd General Assembly is scheduled to convene, seating new and reelected members.
Over the first three days of session, the discussions of who will be the next speaker have punctuated long days of policy-oriented discussion.
A House source said there would likely be another vote for speaker Monday evening. Except for two years, Madigan has been speaker since 1983.