Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch Becomes Illinois’ House of Representatives First Black Speaker In State’s 200-Year History


January 15, 2021

There’s a new speaker in town!


Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch just became the Illinois House of Representatives first Black speaker in the state’s 200-plus year history, NBC Chicago reports.

Welch was elected as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the first new leader the chamber has had in decades. Welch, a Democrat, received 70 votes to Republican Jim Durkin’s 44 votes. Welch has represented Illinois’ 7th District since 2013. His historic win represents a shift of power in Springfield.  Welch is replacing House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has held the position for 36 straight years. 

Madigan ended his campaign for another term after failing to receive an adequate number of votes during the Democratic Caucus’ first vote. A minimum of 60 votes is required to win the speakership, and Democrats hold 73 seats to Republicans’ 45 in the House. Welch was elected over five other candidates, all of whom failed to reach the required amount of support in four separate votes held by the Democratic Caucus in several closed-door sessions. 


The former House speaker congratulated Welch and thanked the caucus for trusting him over the years. “It is time for new leadership in the House. I wish all the best for Speaker-elect Welch as he begins a historic speakership. It is my sincere hope today that the caucus I leave to him and to all who will serve alongside him is stronger than when I began. And as I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built – full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color, and members representing all parts of our state – I am confident Illinois remains in good hands,” Madigan said.

Welch received the green light from the caucus to assume the role just moments before the 102nd General Assembly members were sworn in to vote for the speaker. He thanked the caucus for entrusting him and vowed to lead the caucus and serve the people of Illinois. 

“We have to thank and acknowledge that our state would not be where it is today without Speaker Madigan. Our schools are better, more children have access to health care, and our working-class families can more easily live the American dream thanks to [his leadership]…When I came to Springfield last Friday, it was not my ambition to be standing here. I can tell you that. My ambition was to help my constituents. That was the job that I accepted and am going to continue to do each and every day that I come here – and I ask you to join me in that,” Welch said in his speech.


“While we won’t always agree, because of where we come from, I want to ensure that each of my colleagues knows that I want to work with you directly. I extend my hand to you, to you, and you so that we can all work together. I want to be open and accessible so we can all work together to solve the very serious issues in this state,” Welch added. 

Congratulations, Rep. Welch!

Photo Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune 


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