* Here’s a great example of how screwed up the replacement process is for President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Late last month, Congresscritter Luis Gutierrez said he was out of the running because he only wanted the slot for two years…
Gutierrez met with Gov. Blagojevich and told the governor he would like to be a “caretaker” senator for the next two years working to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate instead of fund-raising to get re-elected to the Senate in 2010, Gutierrez said.
But Blagojevich said he was looking for someone who wanted the post long-term, Gutierrez said. “It’s basically over — unless he calls me back,” Gutierrez said.
* Lynn Sweet talked to His Eminence by phone yesterday and Gov. Blagojevich said Gutierrez was mistaken…
“Not a deal-breaker,” the governor said. While Blagojevich has a strong preference to pick someone who will try to keep the seat, he said if he found “the right person,” it “wouldn’t necessarily preclude him or her from being the choice.”
Maybe he was just telling Gutierrez that Luis wasn’t “the right person,” or maybe the governor changed his mind, or maybe Gutierrez misunderstood, or maybe we can’t believe anything. I lean towards the latter.
* Sen. Dick Durbin disclosed recently that when he finally spoke with Blagojevich, the governor mentioned about 20 possible appointees. That’s a long list, and anybody could be on it, which is one reason why I cracked that joke to Laura Washington at Thom Serafin’s party last week…
The joker is wild. The joker, aka Gov. Blagojevich, is at the center of the state’s hottest political adventure. Last week, amid the chattering din at political operative Thom Serafin’s holiday soiree, I put the question of the season to Rich Miller: “Who will Blagojevich anoint as Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate replacement?”
“Who knows?” replied the Springfield wise man who runs the Capitol Fax news service. “Maybe you.”
Gasp. Seriously, Rich.
“Who knows? Who knows? Who knows?”
So I ran down just a few choice names out of the many in the hopper: Davis, Schakowsky, Gutierrez, Madigan, Duckworth, Chico, Jackson, Giannoulias, Jones, Raoul, Peters, Collins, Seals, Pritzker . . .
Who knows, who knows, who knows?
Miller, who has expertly skewered Blago’s missteps for years, knows that this joker is wild, unpredictable and having a ball. Illinois may be in an economic meltdown, and the feds may be hovering, but the governor is enjoying the speculation spotlight. He’s taking calls and dangling names. In one brief chat with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the gov tossed around 20 possibilities.
* What I also tried to explain to Washington was that the governor has not acted rationally for a very long while. To those, including myself, who have said in the past that the governor would make a choice which is in his best interest, I now say: How can a six-year governor with a 13 percent job approval rating truly understand what’s in his best political interest?
* Back to Lynn Sweet’s column…
In a phone interview, I asked Blagojevich if he considered the vacancy an African-American seat. “I think it is a factor of a great deal of weight in my mind but it is not the only factor or the only consideration, and somebody could be the next Barack Obama who happens not to be the African American, and that person would be hard not to make a U.S. senator.”
There is no “next Barack Obama” in Illinois. He’s one of a kind.
More from the guv…
“it would be very good if all the factors converged and if an African-American candidate would fit that bill . . . and that certainly would be the best of all worlds, and that’s possible, but that by itself is not the only consideration.”
* But the race factor is heating up as an issue. Bobby Rush attended a press conference this week and laid down the gauntlet…
Rush said it would be a “national disgrace” if Obama’s seat were not filled by an African American.
* There are plenty who say that African-Americans shouldn’t view this as a “black seat.” That has some weight in local politics, but there are no other African-Americans in the US Senate right now, so it is a legitimate national concern.
The problem is whom should Blagojevich pick? Black politicians seem pretty united in the view that there should be an African-American replacement…
“We need someone there that’s going to represent us and have a voice,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago.
“We think we ought to replace one with one. And so that is our request,” said Jerry Butler, Cook Co. Commissioner.
But black politicians, themselves, are divided…
“I happen to believe that I am the best possible replacement that he can find,” [Congressman Danny Davis] said.
Davis is West Side. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is South Side. Emil Jones is also South Side, but he despises Jackson.
* Back to Sweet…
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is waging an overt drive. I asked Blagojevich what he thought of Jackson’s public campaign.
Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm, but I may be reading too much into his measured comments.
“He’s got a right to do it,” Blagojevich said, “and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him.”
It’s quite a spectacle. Perhaps Laura Washington would be the best choice after all, but I’m sticking with Bill.
* Zorn: It’s awfully late in the game to be appointing a senator
* Judge sets early date for Rezko corruption sentencing
* Judge sets sentencing date for Tony Rezko
[We have a new post up on this same subject so I’m closing comments on this one. Go here]