District 7 Democratic state House candidate Chris Harris has been very vocal in calling out State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) for his actions as president of the Proviso High School District 209 school board.
Now Harris is questioning Welch’s ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
An article on oakpark.com said that during a candidates forum in Broadview on Monday, Harris, a former Forest Park commissioner, and Welch had some heated exchanges regarding where the blame for the state’s financial crisis should fall. Welch blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Harris blamed Madigan.
Harris criticized Madigan for his vast power over the legislative body and his role in the state’s ongoing problems, and said that if elected, he would challenge Madigan in Springfield.
"I'm not saying, 'Yes sir, Mr. Speaker.' Should you agree with the speaker on everything?” Harris said. “Shouldn't you have your own thoughts? I'm going down there to represent the 7th District, not Michael Madigan. I'm going down there to … think about what's best for our community, not what (Madigan) says every time."
Welch was quick to dispute the notion that he simply goes along with Madigan’s agenda and said he landed the position as state representative on his own merit.
"Mike Madigan didn't help me with my law degree, and Mike Madigan didn't help me get elected in 2012," Welch said. "I vote for what I believe in."
Rauner and Madigan are locked in a battle over the state’s spending budget. With neither willing to budge on key issues, the state has been running without a budget since July.
The power struggle has led Rauner and his allies to make a joint effort to weaken Madigan’s power in the House by supporting a few Democrats in their primary campaigns.
The Forest Park Review said Turnaround Illinois, a PAC created to promote Rauner’s "Turnaround Agenda," contributed $1.8 million to conservative radio host Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles PAC in January. Proft’s PAC, in turn, reported spending $14,166.67 in newspaper ads supporting Harris.
“Independent thought is desperately needed in Springfield,” Proft wrote in an email to the Forest Park Review. “Chris Harris doesn’t share my views, but at least he is his own man. Chris Welch does what he’s told to do by Ron Serpico, Mike Madigan or whoever is lining his pockets at any given moment. That’s the difference, and it’s a big one.”
Harris released a statement addressing the Liberty Principles PAC’s contribution, said he did not seek assistance from Proft’s PAC and said he rejects Rauner’s strategy to solve the budget stalemate.
Last month, the Madigan-controlled Democratic Majority PAC reported making an in-kind donation of $7,042.03 to pay for printing expenses for the Welch campaign, the Forest Park Review reported.