Abbreviated Blagojevich trial a boon for Illinois Democrats
By Felicia Sonmez
For Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), the silence of Rod Blagojevich may well be golden.
Blagojevich, the former governor with whom Quinn served for six years, has been embroiled in a corruption trial that was expected to last well into the fall. A who's-who of Washington power players was expected to testify in the former governor's defense (not to mention the much-anticipated testimony of Blagojevich himself).
Now, the case is nearing its conclusion a mere eight weeks after it began. Blagojevich and his team rested last Wednesday without so much as a word from the defendant (and without a single witness being called). Both sides delivered their closing arguments this week.
While that spells disappointment for those looking forward to the spectacle of a Blagojevich trial, it could make Quinn breathe easier.
"We think the state as a whole is looking forward to moving on and moving forward," Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said. Matsoff called the trial a "painful and regretful experience for our state" and argued that the trial focused on issues of leadership, not partisanship.
"This trial highlights why it's so important that we keep Governor Quinn in office, the first honest governor in a decade," Matsoff said.
Last week, Quinn himself told reporters that "relieved is the wrong word" and said that it's "extremely unfortunate to have a situation where we have one former governor in jail, another one on trial," referring to Blagojevich's predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan (R), who was convicted in 2006 on federal racketeering and fraud charges.
While Quinn denied that he felt relieved, the campaign of his rival, state Sen. Bill Brady (R), had quite the opposite reaction.
"Some politicians might have wanted the trial to drag on," Brady spokesperson Patty Schuh said. "Bill Brady -- on behalf of the citizens -- is relieved its ending. Illinois is tired of the failed leadership and corruption that's been on display."
The shortened timeline of the trial appears to be a plus for Democrats in the Senate race as well -- state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) had been subpoenaed to testify at the trial. Giannoulias spokesman Matt McGrath said that he wouldn't describe the feeling for the campaign as "relief" because "that would imply it was a huge worry in the first place." He then turned the focus back on Republicans.
"I don't think there's any question that this is a great disappointment to the Republican Party," he said. "Attempting to link their opponents to disgraced former politicians is the best they can hope for."
Rep. Mark Kirk's (R) campaign, meanwhile, continued to tie Giannoulias to the disgraced former governor and the "culture of corruption in Illinois furthered by the Blagojevich/Quinn/Giannoulias leadership."
"Alexi Giannoulias ran for state treasurer as Tony Rezko's banker and called Rod Blagojevich an exceptional leader," Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said, noting that Giannoulias had been subpoenaed and had been "less than forthcoming about his involvement and interest in the potential sale of the Senate seat."
With jurors in the Blago trial set to begin deliberations as early as today, it looks increasingly likely that the former governor's trial may be over and done with before summer is out.
That doesn't mean that national Democrats can rest easy. Just as the Blago trial fades out of the public mindset, another trial comes into focus -- that of embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).
The former House Ways and Means Committee chairman may face trial in mid-September for violating congressional ethics rules -- just as voters begin tuning in for the midterms.
July 28, 2010; 2:11 PM ET
Categories: Governors , Senate
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