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Blagojevich to fill Obama’s Senate seat by year end

by Jen Thomas
Nov 05, 2008


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Jen Thomas/MEDILL

Gov. Rod Blagojevich would not name any successors for Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat Wednesday.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he he does not have a short list of candidates to fill Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat, but he expects to make a decision by year’s end.

“I’ve never had more friends than I have today and when I make the final decision, I won’t have as many as I have now. We’re going to be deliberate and thoughtful and we’re going to take our time to do it right,” said Blagojevich Wednesday.

The governor said the selection process will begin immediately and will be led by a group of senior staff.

“While there is no specific deadline, I would say around New Year’s would be as late as we go. My hope is we would to be able to be in a position to make a final decision and an announcement sometime hopefully by Christmas, but I don’t want to over promise that because there could be other circumstances and factors that develop,” he said.

While the governor refused to name even those candidates who had already been lobbying for the position, he said elected officials were a natural place to look for a replacement. Blagojevich lauded possible candidates, including U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Illinois Sen. President Emil Jones and Tammy Duckworth, the director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Department, but told reporters not to read too much into his compliments.

“You want the best possible person to do the best possible job for Illinois for as long as possible,” said Blajojevich, who also noted that he did not have a short list of candidates.

Blagojevich said he will be looking for someone who shares the values of the Democratic Party and he listed healthcare, job creation and the economy, rebuilding the state’s infrastructure, and easing the burden on middle-class families as issues he hopes the candidate will make priorities.
 
The governor eliminated one name from the running – his own.

“I’m not interested in the U.S Senate. I like my job as governor. There’s a lot of work to do,” he said.

Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield, said the governor will most likely select someone who will help him politically in 2010. That means either picking a candidate who will help bolster the little support Blagojevich has left or installing a political rival in the spot to ensure a smoother re-election campaign.

“He might be thinking, ‘Can I eliminate a political rival in the Democratic primary?’ [State Comptroller] Dan Hynes would be more likely to take it than Lisa Madigan, but it could be one way of getting rid of enemies,” Redfield said.

Redfield also said he would be surprised if Obama gets involved in the replacement process.

"It would be sending the wrong message. People could say he's fussing about who's going to take his seat and not national issues like the economy and energy," he said.

Blagojevich said that he had no preference to fill the seat with an African-American, but would consider Latinos and women candidates as well.