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IL-Senate: Between Rod and a Hard Place

The resignation of John Harris, Rod Blagojevich's chief of staff, this afternoon could be presage a similar decision by the disgraced Illinois governor in the coming days.

But, even if Blagojevich resigns (or is declared unfit for office), Democrats still have a major problem on their hands: how to fill the Senate vacancy caused by President-elect Barack Obama's recent resignation.

After some key players in state and national politics (Illinois state House Speaker Mike Madigan, state Senate President Emil Jones Jr., U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin) voiced support earlier this week for a special election to fill the seat, the party has switched courses abruptly -- insisting that the best course of action would be for Blagojevich to resign and for Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to make the appointment in his stead.

This strategic shift was signaled in a letter to Blagojevich penned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and signed by all 50 members of the Democratic caucus -- including Durbin.

The thinking on the switch, expressed privately by Democratic strategists, was two fold: a special election would leave the seat vacant until early spring (at best) and it opened up the real possibility that the party, damaged by the negative press for Blagojevich, could be at risk of losing it.

In the ensuing 48 hours since Reid circulated his letter, however, Republicans -- buoyed by editorial boards in both Chicago and Washington -- have urged that a special election is the only possible way to ensure that Illinois voters have confidence and trust in their next Senator.

Illinois state Sen. Christine Radogno, the incoming minority leader, called the idea of an appointment "ludicrous," adding: "There is no way that an appointment process can be free from the stench of this corrupt Administration."

Radogno's view got a significant boost when the Chicago Tribune and the Fix's own beloved Washington Post editorialized in favor of a special election rather than an appointment over the last few days.

Wrote the Tribune:

"The best option is to hold a special election. Return this decision to the people....Blagojevich could resign -- as this page and many political leaders are leaning on him to do. Then Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would become governor and get the appointment power. Quinn is an honest soul and no friend of Blagojevich. But a caretaker senator appointed by a caretaker governor . . . that wouldn't be a great situation."

In an piece that ran in today's Post, the editorial board wrote that "the way out is for the state legislature to change Illinois law and give voters the opportunity to select Mr. Obama's replacement through a special election," and added: "The people of Illinois deserve to have their voices heard -- through a senator chosen by them at the ballot box."

Another complicating factor for Reid and national Democrats is that a special election is the preferred route of a number of ambitious pols (including many within their own party), meaning that some within Reid's own party might well be working against his stated preference for an appointment.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) has already confirmed that she will be a candidate if there is a special election and even the most rudimentary political handicapping makes clear she has a far better chance of winding up in the Senate via special election rather than appointment. Ditto (likely) for Rep. Danny Davis and any number of other state politicians with an eye toward the future including state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"I'm in favor of the legislature moving forward with legislation to create a special election, but obviously it'll be up to them to make that determination," said Madigan, currently the frontrunner to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2010.

The political plates are also shifting on the Republican side of the ledger where Rep. Mark Kirk has made clear he is interested in a special election bid; the names of Reps. Peter Roskam and Ray LaHood have also surfaced in connection with a possible run for the Senate.

Given the forces lining up behind the idea of a special election, it may be hard for Reid et al. to stand in the way. Politics is about perception and, right now, Democrats can't risk being seen as trying to subvert the democratic process. Yes, the law may say that the governor -- whoever that might be -- gets to appoint the next senator but just a few days ago leading Democrats were ready to change the law to allow for a special election. The initial support for a special election from the likes of Durbin, Madigan and Jones complicates the argument that a special is now no longer the best way to replace Obama.

Political junkies the world round are rooting for a special election. And given the recent developments, they might just get it.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 12, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Whither McCain?
Next: RNC Pushing Hard on Obama-Blago Connection


I am curious. Is it the policy of the Washington Post in reference to Lisa Madigan and Mike Madigan to never mention if and how these people are related? Both are significant players in this story, and readers outside Illinois cannot be presumed to know already, as with W and H Clinton, or G and J Bush. For those curious, it wasn't hard to find out that Lisa is Mike's daughter. But why would this not be mentioned in the story?

Posted by: qlangley | December 15, 2008 2:30 AM | Report abuse









Blagojevich, in other words, assumed Obama would appoint his wife to a Board for the political favor of selecting Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat. Blagojevich is not a stupid man.

Indeed, he only assumed Obama would participate in this “pay to play” scheme, for he knows Obama is acutely aware how the game is played in Illinois and in Chicago. This explains why Blagojevich mentions Michelle Obama and her lack of qualifications to serve on the Board of TreeHouse Foods when he discusses how Obama could appoint Mrs. Blagojevich to a Board for the political favor of appointing Jarrett to the US Senate seat.

Michelle, after all, was appointed to sit on the Board of TreeHouse foods AFTER Obama was elected to the US Senate. Moreover, Michelle Obama’s salary at The University of Chicago nearly TRIPLED after her husband gained the power to submit earmark requests on her employer’s behalf. Just appoint the spouse to a Board and increase his or her salary if you need a political favor from an Illinois politician.





Posted by: 37thandORules | December 14, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse


Your comments are so pathetic as usual - they hardly deserve a response.

Only a few weeks ago Obama and his crew promised transparency - AND now you are defending him hiding everything - are you as much of a hypocrite as they are???

Be serious.

Again you spew out this partisan garble - to defend a person who claims he wants to be post-partisan -

You call people racists to defend someone who claims he wants to be post-racial-

You discriminate against people in affirmative action - in order to make things equal.

Obama needs to come clean - lay out all his dealings with Blagogate, AND with Rezko - AND the Asian Indians and their Pharmacy -

Obama needs to show the country his REAL birth ceritificate

Obama needs to tell the country on what country's passport he was traveling in 1981.

As for you - your comments are so hypocritical and anti-American I can hardly call you patroitic.

You are probably one of those people who supported the Iraqi war initially and then turned against the war after people had given their lives and we had men in Iraqi risking their lives.

There are no words for how low you are broadwayjoe.





Posted by: 37thandORules | December 14, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The column here makes it sound as though the two ideas of an appointed Senator and a special election are mutually exclusive. This is not the case.

Oust Blagojevich, or force him to resign. Once he's gone, Quinn appoints an interim Senator to make sure Illinois retains full representation in the Senate. Preferably this should be a veteran of Illinois politics who has perhaps retired from public service, like former Senator Stevenson, who announces he will not stand for election. The interim Senator is someone who steps into the void merely to ensure that Illinois citizens continue to be fully represented in the Senate.

Then schedule a special election with a primary for the first Tuesday in March. Then set a runoff for the for the first Tuesday in April.

It doesn't take a genius to come to the right solution for Illnois.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | December 14, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

37andOalley, I know we shouldn't take the bait and treat your posts seriously, but I don't want your bigoted rants to go completely unchallenged:

First, O and Rahm are not implicated in the Blags mess, a fact that has been reported repeatedly in the newspaper (I guess, like Phalin, you don't do newspapers.

The facts are not in dispute: O is in no way implicated in the allegations against O (as repeated loudly and endlessly by the prosecutor); Rahm is not implicated (according to inside sources); O did not speak to Blags about any of this; none of O's aides were involved in Blags' "dealmaking" (which is not to say they might not have told Blags who O wanted in the seat (which is perfectly appropriate and done all the time). Any discussion by BHO or Rahm of the Blags matter would be inappropriate since it is the subject of ending legal proceeding (ethics and good sense require they say not one word about it). Today's Washington Post -- thankfully -- has not even a whiff of a false narrative about a BHO/Rahm connection to the Blags dealmaking (Hooray, Post). I know this won't stop your incoherent rants, but there it is.

Second, the citizenship "issue" concerning Hawaiian born BHO was recently dismissed out of hand by the full Supreme Court, after, through a breach of court protocol (Souter had already refused to hear the case), the case was put on the agenda for the Court's case conference.

37andOalley, why not move on to far more constructive pursuits like making fun of 44's middle name or droning on about college professor and nationally known education policy expert, William Ayers? Or maybe squishing ants in the backyard?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 14, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse






The country must begin to understand that Rezko is a common fundraiser for both Obama and Blagojevich - they traveled in the same circles and ate from the same trough.

Let's be clear here.

The National Media has done a great disservice to the nation by failing to report to the nation the truth about Obama - we have an inexperienced politician who has spent years in a corrupt political culture in Chicago.

THAT is his only experience. Emil Jones is another character who should be a household name however probably many national reporters do not know the name.

The nation NEEDS to know all the discussions between the Obama people, including Rahm Emanuel, including the discussions between Obama and Valerie Jarrett and the rest of the Obama staff concerning Blagogate.

On one hand we had the Obama camp proclaiming how transparent they will be and a week later clamming up tighter than a pig in a poke.

Hypocrites - we have a bunch of pretenders with Obama and his people - it is about time Obama is exposed for the FRAUD he is.

Obama's best chance is to actually attempt to live up to the post-partisan and post-racial candidate who he claimed to be.

It may have been a fraud all year long, however that is his only chance.

Obama created his own measure against which he should be judged - at this point Obama is a failure for not being transparent and holding back information from the American people.

Also, let's see his birth certificate - Let's hear Obama tell us on which country's passport did he travel to four countries in 1981. The NATION deserves this from him.





Posted by: 37thandORules | December 14, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse






You are 100% correct on all account


It is about time the truth is spoken on this forum.





Posted by: 37thandORules | December 13, 2008 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh for cryin ice!

Get Blagojevich out and let Quinn appoint...them's the rules...

None of this special election crapola with the republicans swiming around like sharks surrounding swill.

You heard Jeb Bush say that republicans needed to create a shadow government... doesn't sound like they plan to work with democrats at all...

So don't even assume there's any felicity to be had... do the appointment ASAP.

Posted by: dutchess2 | December 13, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama's henchmen should tell their IL peeps to fill the Senate job just like they did their V.P. job (Biden) - with a warm body!

Posted by: newbeeboy | December 13, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

From the Lipman Times:

Colbert Report Video of the Night::

Rob Blagojevich's Birthday:

The LT: All Obama. All The Time.

Posted by: robthewsoncamb | December 13, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Why did Obama LIE about discussing the seat with Blago? Three news outlets + Axelrod on are on the record saying he did.

Who from Team Obama offered Blago a corporate BOD position? It's on the tapes.

Is that Emanuel on the conf. call with Blago and his wife? He's getting pretty testy, my money says "yes".

What did they mean on the FBI wiretap when Blago's advisers said Obama had to "suck it up" for the next couple years? Temporarily refrain from lying, cheating, bribing, and stealing... Chicago-style?

Blago's (convicted) bagman was Rezko... you know, the guy that helped Barack buy that nice house by overpaying for an attached lot (in a package deal).... so Obama could get a hidden pay-off? And the real estate agent was...? None other than Patti Blagojevich- Hot Rod's obnoxious wife.

Obama has now bus-chucked former allies Blago, Rezko, Ayers, Wright, Pfleger, and Khalidi the minute they got into hot water... not a speck of loyalty among theives.

Any one of them probably has five things on Barack that could get him impeached... or at minimum, exposed as a blatant liar (Rezko's already singing now). Have you notice how The One seems all nervous and stuttering lately? I sure have.

Now that they've all been made enemies by Obama, it's just a matter of time for WHEN critical mass is reached... then "ObamaMania" goes >pooof<

Wake-up, dreamers... when reality hits, it hits hard... especially when suppressed by so many, for so long.

I guess you won't be getting that Senate seat now either, Chris Matthews- should have just bought this one off of Blago when you had the chance, LOL

Let the truth be told... the de-programming of the Obama Cult is desperately needed... and long overdue.

Posted by: ReaganiteRepublican | December 13, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Bank of America and Mr. Higgins missing $millions, It can happen to you, my fellow Americans

More info:

Posted by: srmaxhiggins | December 13, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Bank of America and Mr. Higgins missing $millions, It can happen to you, my fellow Americans

More info:

Posted by: srmaxhiggins | December 13, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Without Blago, this becomes no more of a problem than any other vacancy, unless you have some evidence of wrongdoing by someone in the prospective field. Special elections are not unusual in America and in TX we have them relatively often. Appointments are not unusual in America, either. They always raise the same logistic and similar political issues but they happen. So the LtG can appoint and it will be done for two years or a special election can be held and it will be done for two years.
Once Blago is gone, this is no big deal.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 13, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Here's an X-factor in the whole process that I don't think anyone's discussed: Pat Quinn's ambitions. The man's already run for Senate once (fought Durbin in the '96 primary), and has spent two terms in the #2 spot in Springfield. Either way, I imagine that he'd like to move up in the world. Picking a replacement for Obama appeared to be a minefield for Blago given that he harbored delusional dreams of reelection; if Quinn actually wants to rise higher, he's got to find a way to avoid angering any major Democratic constituencies. He could punt, picking a definite short-termer like Emil Jones, but that seems unlikely. The other way out is via a special election, leaving him to brawl with Lisa Madigan for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010 without having angered minorities or anyone else (beyond Harry Reid, but who cares about him).

Posted by: LandofLincoln97 | December 13, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Don't really care how they fill the seat.

The process will play out one way or another: through the AG's lawsuit (to have the court rule Blags is unfit), an IL legislative block of Blags appointment power, Blags' impeachment, or Blags' resignation. I don't know enough about the pretenders for O's open Senate seat to even have a view, though JJJ (Triple J)would seem like a worthy pick given the way he supported O during the election (even going against his reverend Dad, who inexplicably was bent on personally mutilating O -- what's up with that?).

I DO care about the bent focus on the media: the issue is Blags and what HE did. It is NOT about O. The facts are largely not in dispute: O is in no way implicated in the allegations against O (as repeated loudly and endlessly by the prosecutor); Rahm is not implicated (according to inside sources); O did not speak to Blags about any of this; none of O's aides were involved in Blags' "dealmaking" (which is not to say they might not have told Blags who O wanted in the seat (which is perfectly appropriate and done all the time). In short, O-Nation is in the clear.

Despite those facts, the media continues to strain to tie O in some way to the Blags mess. As MSNBC suggested, O-haters have gone from guilt by association to guilt by physical proximity -- O was in Illinois (or on the continent) at the same time Blags was and therefore.... I thought CNN's analysis during the election of whether O's rubbing his nose during a speech was an obscene gesture was as silly as it gets. Or maybe E.D. Hill's obsession with Michelle's "terrorist" fist bumps. But this effort to tie O to Blags' mess after the prosecution has EXPLICITLY said it doesn't involve 44 is way beyond the pale. This week, one journalist (I think from anti-O AP) even illogically argued the prosecutor's upfront exoneration of O was NOT "good news." Oy. Go figure.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 13, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse





News Flash

Obama names HUD Secretary - another Clinton person - the only person Obama has not brought back by now is MONICA - why not - she brought alot of life to the party and it was never dull with the media focused on her.

Sometimes things should be reviewed.

Monica deserves a spot in Obama's administration. It just won't be the same without her.




Posted by: 37thandORules | December 13, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I live in Illinois and would not want to see a special election, as tainted as this whole thing has become. It would be different if Obama was just re-elected or something, but not worth it over a couple of years left. Special elections are expensive and, no thanks to our governor, our state budget is already in the toilet.

Did the people clamoring for an election miss the billions of dollars in unpaid bills the state still has to sort out? Maybe they should (solely) be the ones to foot the bill and see if it's still worth it.

Posted by: midoreigh | December 13, 2008 1:42 AM | Report abuse

What makes anybody think this governor, who has sixty days to do so, will sign any bill that removes from him the power to appoint the new senator. He will undoubtedly veto such a bill on the 59th day. The quickest and most pure way to handle this is for the courts to rule him "Unable to serve." That gives the power to appoint to the Lt. Governor who immediately should appoint the lady who had her legs shot off in Iraq. She has not been mentioned in any of this rumble and seems able enough to handle things. If she can't handle the job, they can elect someone else in two years.

Posted by: Opa2 | December 13, 2008 12:50 AM | Report abuse

What makes anybody think this governor, who has sixty days to do so, will sign any bill that removes from him the power to appoint the new senator. He will undoubtedly veto such a bill on the 59th day. The quickest and most pure way to handle this is for the courts to rule him "Unable to serve." That gives the power to appoint to the Lt. Governor who immediately should appoint the lady who had her legs shot off in Iraq. She has not been mentioned in any of this rumble and seems able enough to handle things. If she can't handle the job, they can elect someone else in two years.

Posted by: Opa2 | December 13, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Politics IS about perception. The Republicans are trying to kill the UAW and impoverish the middle class factory workers left after NAFTA. They won't forget anytime soon.

The CA GOP is STILL trying to recover from Pete Wilson with Hispanics. Their vote has boiled down to older whites, and now they're driving THEM away by ganging up on workers. The party must be suicidal.

Posted by: gbooksdc | December 12, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I've got my ear to the ground right next to the railroad tracks and what I'm hearing from the right is "Anything, anything to kill the UAW." And "Anything, anything to stop card check".

Posted by: officermancuso | December 12, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Corey_NY | December 12, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Bush should preemptively pardon Blogoyavich in return for his resignation now. Then hold an election and let the people's voice not be stifled under a stench of corruption. Pardon Rangel too before the stench overcomes BO. While he's at it pardon Emmanuel and Hillary and Valerie. Otherwise BO will have to pardon these folks later.

Posted by: georgejones5 | December 12, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Politics will be the underlying reason for the choice, but cost will be the determining factor in allowing the Dems to switch course and allow Quinn to make the appointment to fill the seat. Really, while we're fighing the prospects of a depression and taling about bailing out the auto industry, we're going to throw between $40 and $70 mil at a special election for someone who will serve in an overwhelming Democratic senate for just two years? C'mon.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 12, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

The whole process of gubernatorial appointments is outmoded, in my opinion, though it has the advantage of speed.

Posted by: SeanC1 | December 12, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

The fate of two Senate seats was thrown in the legal minefield today as Norm Coleman launched his first major lawsuit in the recount battle with Al Franken, and the Illinois Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to remove Blagojevich from power or at least strip him of his appointment powers.

Posted by: Daniel20 | December 12, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

One big drawback is the cost to hold an election. I've seen figures as high as $40 million, which is a big deal when the state doesn't have the money. The other problem is that Illinois election requires candidates to gather (20,000?) signatures (comprising some percentage of the total electorate to vote in the last gubernatorial election) and submit these signatures to the Secretary of State for verification some period (60 days?) in advance of the election. I think that Illinois law may require a primary and then a general election. [It is unclear to me if this is a party primary or an open primary.] As a result, even if the Illinois Legislature passes and G-Rod signs a bill authorizing an election, the seat won't be filled before April at the earliest.

Posted by: chiguy | December 12, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the upside to an appointment. A quick resolution would be nice, but we are talking about a few weeks at most. Given the Democrats' sizable advantage in the Senate, not having one vote for a few weeks shouldn't mean anything. Any appointment would mean trouble for the regular election in 2010 either through a primary or a general challenge.

Have the special election. There is already a good slate of known politicians ready to go. Do it some time in early January and by the time the inauguration comes around, we're set with a full roster of 100. If there's a delay due to a close vote or something, then so be it. It's not like the Senate moves at breakneck speed anyways.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 12, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The best course of action is giving the Governor Immunity(Yeah i know, but thats the easy way) and asking him to resign.

Posted by: votenow | December 12, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Tom Cross, the Illinois House Republican leader, said he hoped two things would be accomplished when lawmakers met next week: passage of a bill creating a special election to fill the Senate seat (and removing Mr. Blagojevich’s appointment power), and impeachment of the governor.

Both prospects, though, are complicated.

Even if such a bill were to pass, the governor is allowed 60 days to decide whether to sign it. If he were to wait, then veto it, a new Legislature — which arrives in January — could not override a veto on actions taken by the current Legislature, and the new group of lawmakers would have to start the process once more.

Impeachment, too, is a largely untested and potentially time-consuming process.

Posted by: votenow | December 12, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Huh. Well, I suppose we can just toss the law aside even if Quinn replaces Blago, and take our chances with a special election. I mean, if Bush and his lackeys can flaunt the laws of the land, why not this? Law's really not important these days, anyways, right?

Posted by: SGall23241 | December 12, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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