For the second time since former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested last December, current Gov. Pat Quinn backed off from his position calling for a special election to fill President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. By doing so, he may have dashed any real chance he had to retain the governship after next year’s election.
After then-Gov. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 for, among other things, allegedly trying to sell Obama’s vacated seat to the highest bidder, Quinn was among the chorus of voices calling for a special election to select the state’s junior U.S. senator instead of letting the tainted governor pick someone. Soon he and other high-ranking Democratic officials backed away from their calls for a special election, deciding it was better to make sure a Democratic governor picks the next senator rather than allow any chance of a Republican winning the election.
That, of course, resulted in Blagojevich appointing Roland Burris to the seat, and now the controversy surrounding Burris has many people calling for Burris’s resignation. Since Burris won’t resign, Quinn once again joined the renewed collective call for a special election, which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says would be a legal way to remove temporary Sen. Roland Burris from office before the 2010 election.
But that was last week. Today, Quinn changed his mind again after meeting with a group of black elected leaders.
“I think there should be a special election. You cannot have a special election unless the incumbent resigns. The incumbent has said he will not resign,” Quinn said.
Quinn said he needs to focus on state budgetary issues rather than continue wasting time on Burris. He also said his decision to back away from his call for a special election has nothing to do with black elected leaders saying Quinn and other politicians risk losing the support of the black community if they keep hammering on Burris.
Quinn and other white politicians (U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin comes to mind) are so afraid of losing support among black voters that they cave in to black leaders’ demands. It is sad to see the race card continue to be played with such persuasive force in a time when President Obama’s election was supposed to help our country move past such things.
If Republicans keep calling for Burris’s resignation, they may have found their ticket to regaining the keys to the governor’s mansion. But they likely will still have to contend with Madigan, who hasn’t stepped in anything unsavory during the Blagojevich and Burris controversies. Her lack of backtracking on anything she said seems to put her in prime shape for a gubernatorial run next year. Quinn surely will try to hold onto the position, but I think by twice backing off his calls for a special election, he gave his political opponents something they can successfully use against him.