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Land of Lincoln Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) said on Wednesday that he was forming a panel to vet potential Senate replacements for President-elect Obama.
Because its important that the best person for Illinois is selected, I want to be clear that the calendar wont dictate our search, Blagojevich said in a statement. Instead, I want to ensure that Obamas successor will understand and fight for the needs of average Illinoisans.
Blagojevich said the panel would be made up of diverse senior staff of his administration, but he declined to name names or indicate when the panel would convene. Still, the panels recommendations are expected to weigh heavily on the embattled governors ultimate decision, as he balances a delicate mix of racial, legal and political considerations not least of which is his own re-election in 2010.
As of Wednesday, the short list of potential Obama replacements included: Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D), state Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth (D), retiring state Senate President Emil Jones (D), state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D), and marketing consultant Dan Seals (D), who lost his second consecutive race last night to Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
Jackson, a national Obama campaign co-chairman, has voiced the most interest in the job in recent weeks. Still, Jacksons naming is not a done deal, sources say, as the civil rights scion would face a tough election for a full term in two years, likely facing suburban and rural voters who have outright disdain for the lawmakers father, a Windy City political fixture for four decades.
Hes got high negatives, but its mostly because of his dad, an Illinois Democratic operative said. There are high negatives that come with his name simply because he is the son of Jesse Jackson, particularly in the suburbs and Downstate. It could be a hindrance outside of the Chicago area.
Jacksons on-again, off-again relationship with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), the source said, also may be a factor in the lawmakers bid.
For now, the Chicago Democratic machine, led by Daley, appears to be sitting out the Obama replacement stakes, perhaps in the hopes of avoiding the watchful eye of the International Olympic Committee.
Chicago is vying with Tokyo; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Madrid, Spain, for the 2016 Olympics, according to news reports. The winner will be announced next October.
The mayor believes that the Congressman has not done all that he could do from his position on the Appropriations Committee to bring resources to Chicago, the source said.
Youve got to pick your fights, the source continued. The mayor hasnt really tipped his hand on this. For one, outside of the presidential race, hes really tried not to make a lot of waves because he wants the Olympics in 2016.
And should he get the nod, complicating matters for Jackson would be deciding whom to support to succeed him in his South Side district, a choice that could potentially complicate his home life: The lawmakers wife, Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, is said to want a shot at the seat.