The top Democrat contender for the speaker position in the Illinois House of Representatives is facing scrutiny from his colleagues and others for his history of domestic abuse.
Reporting by the Chicago Tribune indicates that in 2002, officers responded to Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s house after his ex-girlfriend claimed he “slammed her head into a kitchen countertop numerous times after she called him ‘a loser’” when she was at his house to pick up some of her belongings. Police reports also suggest Welch blocked her from leaving the home, which is when she called the police. Welch denied the allegations.
While the woman originally sought to press charges against Welch for “domestic battery and unlawful restraint,” she eventually declined to do so.
“A few days later, the woman reported a bruise on her arm, police said,” as reported by the Tribune.
Eight years later, another woman filed a federal lawsuit for sexual harassment and retaliation against Welch, saying she lost her job at a school after she broke up with him while he was still president of the school board. The case was eventually dismissed following the beginning of settlement talks.
Welch said the incidents, especially the domestic abuse, are no longer relevant and only resurfaced because Republicans are “threatened by the potential growth of my profile.”
“This verbal argument occurred nearly two decades ago,” Welch said in a statement. “I will be honest that I have reconciled with the individual since that night.”
These charges, however, are concerning to some representatives who note that, if chosen as the speaker, Welch would be replacing his political “ally,” current Speaker Michael Madigan, who received backlash after a Me Too scandal in 2018 in his office, resulting in the firing of one of his longtime aides.
Despite Welch’s quick support and endorsement from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Alaina Hampton, the female campaign worker who came forward in 2018 after her supervisor in Madigan’s office sent her inappropriate texts, condemned Welch’s bid for speaker.
“How does our state go through a #MeToo scandal that lasted two years and the solution to replacing Michael Madigan is with a person” who appeared in a police report write-up over domestic violence allegations? she asked.
Current speaker Madigan was also under investigation by the House Executive Committee, chaired by Welch, for a Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal, but the committee “adjourned with no action.”
According to House Republican leader Jim Durkin, Welch is merely “an extension of Mike Madigan.”
“We’ve gotta break from the past,” said Durkin. “And trust me, Mike Madigan is going to do everything he can to make sure he passes that baton off to somebody that’s going to continue the business model of Madigan Inc.”