a tense-looking Jackson reiterated that he still wants the Senate seat, citing his seniority, experience, and record, but also said that he never initiated or authorized anyone to make any promises to the governor on his behalf. Of his meeting with the Blagojevich, Jackson said, “I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was considering me based on my 13 years of working on behalf of the hard-working people of the state as well as the nation. I thought, mistakenly, I had a chance and was being considered because I earned it.â€
Jackson added that he was unaware that the governor and his team were attempting to use the appointment process to “extort money and favors in a brazen pay-to-play scheme.â€ At the advisement of legal counsel, he declined to answer reporters’ questions and will meet with federal prosecutors in the coming days.
Illinois Rep. Danny Davis, who has also discussed the possibility of getting the appointment with Blagojevich, says he has no doubts about Jackson’s integrity. But he and others agree that anyone appointed by the governor would be tainted, making it difficult for him or her to run with any credibility in the regular 2010 election. By law, the governor is the only person who can fill the Senate vacancy, but the Illinois General Assembly is actively seeking ways to change the law and instead hold a special election.
According to Davis, a special election is the best remedy, despite the $30 million to $50 million price tag, especially since Blagojevich is showing no sign that he’s willing to step down.
“The governor’s antics have undercut his credibility so badly that most people wouldn’t have much confidence in any appointment he made,â€ says Davis, who adds that Blagojevich did not approach him for any favors during their discussions. Davis says he knows Blagojevich well enough to recognize that some of what he says is often just talk and the governor should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Davis adds that while there may be a few Democrats willing to fill the seat as a sort of place holder until 2010, anyone who hopes to be considered a viable and serious contender would later be flooded by both the media and opponents with questions about what the governor may have received or been promised in exchange for the appointment.
“The goal is to try to make sure that whoever succeeds Obama in the Senate gets there by a process that doesn’t appear to be tainted by political corruption and it would seem that almost any appointment process that involves the governor would be tainted,â€ says Mezey. But while the general assembly could pass a law for a special election, Blagojevich is unlikely to sign it. He also has 60 days to veto or sign it and may decide to try to hang on until then.
A special election also raises questions about who is prepared to run in terms of organization, funding, and statewide appeal. Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan is one of the few people being