CHICAGO, Ill. – Illinois’ 22nd House District now has its third representative in four days. Democrats hope Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar will last much longer than Ed Kodatt, who had to resign quickly after his appointment to replace Mike Madigan.
The former House Speaker told his original handpicked-successor to resign Tuesday night. Madigan then appointed Guerrero-Cuellar Thursday morning. She previously received the second-highest total vote on Sunday. Committee members and candidates spent several hours inside a meeting room at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture for the initial hearing. But, Thursday’s meeting lasted a whopping five minutes.
Reporters quickly asked Madigan why his first successor had to step down. Their attempt came up empty.
“I don’t plan to speak to background questions,” Madigan said sternly.
Was there a proper vetting process before you handpicked Ed Kodatt, or any search into his social media?
“His name was put out in advance like everybody else. There was a complete circulation of resumes,” Madigan explained. Every resume that was submitted was read through.”
Still, Madigan said he didn’t learn of troubling accusations against Kodatt until after the 26-year-old’s appointment. The 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman dodged several more questions about Kodatt, the future of the Democratic Party of Illinois, and his possible role in Gov. JB Pritzker’s “Fair Tax” failing to gain enough support in November.
Despite the drama surrounding Kodatt, this is now Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar’s moment. The West Lawn native says she’ll focus on serving the people and community of the 22nd District.
Giving back to the community: “That’s what I’ve always done”
“Don’t disregard me because maybe you’ve never heard of me before,” Guerrero-Cuellar said. “Understand that my heart and my dedication is to the people and to the residents of this district.”
Guerrero-Cuellar described the past few days as a whirlwind.
“At least with pregnancy you have nine months to prepare,” Guerrero-Cuellar said through laughter. “This is not something that I was really prepared for. I did submit my application just to be hopeful and to provide my credentials, but also to let people know that we should definitely give back to the community and that’s what I’m doing. That’s what I’ve always done.”
She had never spoken individually with Madigan before Thursday morning. The powerful Democrat told Guerrero-Cuellar his doors are open if she ever has questions and she should listen to concerns from residents.
The 39-year-old plans to leave her role as manager of Envision Community Services in Chicago to be a full-time lawmaker. As a daughter of immigrants, Guerrero-Cuellar wanted to share the success with her family. She choked up thinking about the fact her mother could witness the swearing-in ceremony in person.
“I had her stand next to me when I took that oath because this position is not about me. It’s about her and the choices that she made, and my dad made,” Guerrero-Cuellar said. “And my family and my older sister is here. She helped raise me when I was younger.”
The new representative says she looked up to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and successful women in politics. Gurrero-Cuellar also hopes this shows her daughters they could do anything.
“You can have both. You can be a wife and a mother, and you can have a successful career in politics,” she added. “And you don’t have to pick one or the other.”