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Illinois Republicans call on Democratic opponents to pick a side

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WEEK) - Several Illinois House Republicans in tight reelection battles are highlighting an important vote for lawmakers in January. They're asking Democratic opponents who they'll support for Speaker of the House: Mike Madigan or Rep. Stephanie Kifowit.

These suburban Republicans are using Kifowit's recent announcement as new fuel for their campaigns. However, the Oswego Democrat says no one should use her message for political points. Kifowit was one of the first lawmakers to call for Speaker Madigan's resignation following his implication in the deferred prosecution agreement for ComEd. She believes ethics must be restored in the Speaker's office, a message many Republicans encourage.

"I remain committed to Leader Durkin unless there's a viable option other than Speaker Madigan from the Democratic side that has the potential to move Illinois in a new direction," said Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).

It's not unheard of for members to vote across the partisan line for the Speaker's seat. In fact, Kifowit welcomes it.

"You had Republicans vote for Mike Madigan back in the day to work together and to signify that we want to work together for unity for our state way back in the history books," Kifowit added.

A stand against corruption

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) says lawmakers could come together to support a new leader. Still, she emphasized it would require significant dedication from Democrats.

"It shouldn't be all Republicans and just one Democrat saying we need new and ethical leadership. Everyone must stand up against corruption in our state," Mazzochi explained.

However, Kifowit doesn't agree with Republican colleagues using her campaign against Madigan for their own political gain. She says this all comes down to trust in elected leaders and emphasizing values, regardless of party affiliation.

"I believe in democracy and I believe in having more people at the table in any kind of election, such as Speaker or whatnot," Kifowit said. "That just brings a robust discussion and an avenue for change that I think we all can believe in for the 102nd General Assembly."

A lot can happen before representatives hold that vote in January. More Democrats could come forward to announce campaigns of their own.

In the meantime, Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) says Democratic candidates should return any money they received from Madigan. A guaranteed vote of approval usually leads to more financial support on the campaign trail from the longtime Speaker. Madigan would need 60 of the 118 representatives to back his retention.

"He has to recruit new blood, new soldiers to give him that yes vote to guarantee his spot," Batinick said. "So, these races are unbelievably important to make sure that any of our opponents are not number 60."

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Mike Miletich

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