If Democrats lose control of the Illinois governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate seat currently kept warm by Roland Burris, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Last week Gov. Pat Quinn said Burris should resign within two weeks or lawmakers should approve a special election for the seat vacated by President Obama. But on Monday, Quinn reversed his opinion on the matter — for the second time — after meeting with a group of black elected leaders, who pressured the governor to leave Burris alone.
Taking its cue from the governor’s backpedaling, a Democratic-controlled subcommittee of state senators voted 3-2 Thursday against allowing a special election. The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy, appears dead.
Various Democrats gave excuses why they don’t support a special election. The only reason that makes sense to me is the high cost of such an election, estimated at $62 million at a time when the state can hardly afford to take on such an expense. Yet a special election would finally put to rest the controversy that will continue to dog Burris until he leaves office.
State Sen. Rickey Hendon, a black Democratic legislator from Chicago’s West Side, gave what I consider the worst reason for not supporting a special election: “Why target the only black U.S. senator in the country?”
Burris’s race is not why the senator is being urged to resign. It is the fact that he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by a corrupt governor who has since been impeached and removed from office.
Hendon was the state senator who complained Rod Blagojevich didn’t get a fair trial in the Illinois Senate, so his support of Burris for the weakest of reasons doesn’t surprise me.
For those who say Burris shouldn’t be removed from office solely because of his race, I wish to remind them that while there have been only a few black U.S. senators, Illinois voters elected most of them. Why do they think Illinois voters wouldn’t elect another black U.S. senator? U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., is a strong candidate for the position. Nevertheless, it is our U.S. senator to choose and most voters are going to select that person based on qualifications and issue stances, not race.
Instead, we are stuck with Burris without an opportunity to decide whether we want him to keep serving as our junior U.S. senator, all because top Democrats are too timid to stand up to a vocal group of black leaders who strongarmed them into killing the special election legislation. In this case, the desires of the few outweigh the rights of the many. I hope voters remember that come election time.