Durbin Calls for Illinois Special Election

Posted December 9, 2008 at 12:36pm

Updated 3:37 p.m.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is calling for the Illinois Legislature to immediately pass a veto-proof bill that would require President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate successor to be chosen in a special election, rather than by gubernatorial appointment.

Durbin’s remarks Tuesday afternoon come on the heels of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) arrest Tuesday morning on federal corruption charges. Durbin, Illinois’ senior Senator, said it would be virtually impossible for an individual to serve in the Senate without an ethical taint if that person were to be appointed by Blagojevich.

“I think the Illinois General Assembly should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy,” Durbin told reporters.

Blagojevich was taken into federal custody Tuesday morning as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe. At the heart of the Justice Department allegations is a charge that the Illinois governor was looking to sell Obama’s Senate seat.

Durbin said that he has already reached out to state legislative leaders about his idea for a special election but that it remains unclear how quickly such a bill could be drafted and passed. Durbin said that if his idea were realized, the winner of any special election would have to run for re-election in 2010.

Durbin said he has yet to discuss the Blagojevich matter with his longtime ally Obama. Obama has yet to comment on the arrest.

While some Democratic lawmakers were quick to support of Durbin’s idea, at least one Illinois lawmaker expressed concern.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Tuesday warned that a special election would put his Chicago district at a disadvantage because it would be costly. A special election would also take too long, he said.

“I just want other options to be considered,“ Rush said.

In recent weeks, Rush has been leading a petition drive to get Blagojevich to appoint an African-American to Obama’s seat. In the wake of today’s arrest, Rush said he is assembling a team of lawyers to consider their options.