Democrats urge special election for Senate seat
Top Illinois lawmakers said Tuesday that they are preparing to call the Legislature into session as early as next week to set a special election, hoping to avert the possibility of indicted Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich picking the state's next U.S. senator.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he is ready to convene the House on Monday to vote on a special election that would choose the successor to President-elect Obama. Illinois Senate President Emil Jones said he would also call senators back for a special session.
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called for a process to fill the vacancy that does not involve Blagojevich. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also urged the state House and Senate to settle on a special election that could withstand a Blagojevich veto.
Durbin said a special election could be coupled with one that will be needed to replace Rep. Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Democrat will resign his seat soon to become Obama's White House chief of staff. The Constitution requires House vacancies to be filled by elections. Senate vacancies can be filled by appointment, and Illinois, like most states, gives the power to the governor.
For ace prosecutor, another big case
For Rod Blagojevich, it's too bad prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald ever came home. While holding down the job of U.S. attorney in Chicago, Fitzgerald commuted to the nation's capital, investigating the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame all the way to a conviction against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. On Tuesday, Fitzgerald shook the Illinois political world with the arrest of Blagojevich, a Democrat, for allegedly conspiring to sell the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Obama. That's not all: Fitzgerald also won the conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. Obama has pledged to keep Fitzgerald, 47, on the job, so the latest corruption case is not likely to be Fitzgerald's swan song.
Former governors did prison time
Three former Illinois governors have gone to prison in the past 35 years:
Otto Kerner, a Democrat who was governor from 1961 to 1968, served less than a year of a three-year sentence after his 1973 conviction on bribery, tax evasion and other counts. Kerner died in 1976.
Dan Walker, a Democrat who was governor from 1973 to 1977, served 1 ½ years of a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in 1987 to bank fraud, misapplication of funds and perjury. The charges were not related to his service as governor.
George Ryan, a Republican governor from 1999 to 2003, was convicted of corruption in 2006 for steering state contracts and leases to political insiders and helping cover up bribes paid in return for truck drivers licenses while he was secretary of state and then governor. He is serving a 6 ½-year prison term.
William Stratton, a Republican governor from 1953 to 1961, was indicted but acquitted on charges of income tax evasion.