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Defiant Blagojevich names Obama successor
Question of the Day
Mr. Burris said he looks forward to filling Mr. Obama’s seat, though he did not have answers for how he would address Senate Democrats’ refusal to seat him or Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s announcement that he wouldn’t certify the pick.
“I’m honored, that I have been appointed. And we will deal with the next step in the process,” Mr. Burris said.
Mr. Burris, 71, served a term as state attorney general in the 1990s. He became the first black official elected to statewide office in 1978 when he won his first of three terms as state comptroller general.
Now a lawyer in private practice, he ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary against Mr. Blagojevich in 2002 but has since donated money to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaigns and received business from the state.
Mr. Burris has not been implicated in the investigation into Mr. Blagojevich, and with the exception of Illinois Republicans who said he would continue the legacy of “Blagojevich Democrats,” there wasn’t much criticism of Mr. Burris. Mr. Burris would not say whether he will run in 2010, when the seat is up for election.
Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges of trying to sell the empty seat in exchange for a job or other consideration for himself or his wife. The governor has vowed to fight the charges and said Tuesday that they should not affect Mr. Burris.
“Don’t allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man,” Mr. Blagojevich said at an afternoon press conference, adding he was “absolutely confident” that the Senate would seat Mr. Burris.
Mr. Blagojevich’s attorney said earlier that the governor would not make an appointment, but on Tuesday, the governor said he was forced to change course after the legislature failed to create another way of picking a senator.
The Illinois legislature is moving on impeachment proceedings against Mr. Blagojevich, but rejected Republicans’ calls for a special election. Some Republicans have said their party could capture Mr. Obama’s seat in a special election.
The ongoing saga of the seat haunts Mr. Obama, even on his Hawaii vacation. He has been interviewed as a witness by prosecutors in the pay-to-play investigation, although the U.S. attorney heading the case has said they are not accusing the president-elect of wrongdoing.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, incoming chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, said the Senate should block Mr. Burris from taking the seat.
“It´s time for the Democratic Party to do the right thing. The Senate should refuse to seat Mr. Burris, and then Senator Reid, Senator Durbin and all Senate Democrats should join Republicans in supporting a special election to fill this seat,” Mr. Cornyn said.
• Joseph Curl contributed to this report.
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