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Rep. Ann Williams To Run For Illinois House Speaker; Third Democrat To Challenge Embattled Mike Madigan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois House could be in for an extended battle over who will hold the speaker's gavel when new lawmakers are sworn in next week, with at least three House Democrats set to challenge Speaker Michael Madigan for leadership of the chamber.

Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) announced Wednesday she will be running for House Speaker when the new General Assembly is sworn in on Jan. 13.

"I will lead the House Democratic Caucus collaboratively - with integrity, open communication, and respect for the voices of all Illinoisans," Williams said in a statement.

Williams joins at least two other House Democrats planning to challenge Madigan for leadership of the Illinois House. In October, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) also announced she was running for speaker. According to multiple published reports, Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison), a member of Madigan's leadership team, also is running.

While the Black Caucus and Latino Caucus both have endorsed Madigan for another term as speaker, at least 19 House Democrats -- including Williams, Kifowit, and Willis -- have said they will not vote for Madigan.

With 73 Democrats set to be sworn in for the next Illinois General Assembly, that means neither Madigan nor any of his three challengers currently has the 60 votes needed to win the speaker's gavel.

Madigan has been under fire for months over the sweeping ComEd bribery scandal. Last July, federal prosecutors accused ComEd of a yearslong bribery scheme that sought to curry Madigan's favor in advancing legislation relaxing state regulation of ComEd's rates by directing $1.3 million in payments to the speaker's associates. ComEd acknowledged it stood to benefit by more than $150 million from that legislation.

ComEd has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the feds, and has agreed to pay a $200 million fine, enact a number of reforms, and cooperate with investigators in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges in 2023 if ComEd lives up to its obligations.

In November, longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker, and former lobbyist Jay Doherty were charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records. They have pleaded not guilty. That followed the September guilty plea by a former ComEd vice president, Fidel Marquez.

Madigan, 78, has not been charged with a crime, and has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he plans to run for another term as speaker, and has said he still has "support from a significant number of House Democratic caucus members."

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin also is running for speaker, and has said he has the votes of all 45 House Republicans, but would need at least 15 Democrats to cross party lines to win, which would likely prove an insurmountable task.

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