Governor Calls on Burris to Resign

Posted February 20, 2009 at 11:33am

Updated 1 p.m.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Friday called on Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) to resign in order to help the people of Illinois put the scandal over former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) alleged attempt to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat for political favors behind them.

“I ask Sen. Burris to put the interests of the people of Illinois ahead of his own … and step aside,” Quinn said at a news conference. “Let’s do what’s right for the Land of Lincoln. Let’s put this matter behind us.”

Quinn said he hoped Burris would step down within a week but had not spoken with him.

Quinn joined a host of state lawmakers and at least two Illinois Members of Congress calling on Burris to step down, but he is so far the highest-ranking member of the Senator’s own party to do so.

Burris’ ties to disgraced Blagojevich have been an increasing headache for Democrats, who are worried about holding on to what they once thought was a safe Senate seat in 2010.

Quinn called on the state legislature to pass a law setting up a special election in the event of a Senate vacancy, so that voters could choose the next Senator.

Quinn said he would prefer for any Burris replacement to be selected by the people of Illinois and endorsed a bill in the state legislature that would require a special election within about four months of a vacancy.

Quinn said the measure would require the governor to call an election within five days of a Senate vacancy. Seventy-two days from then, the state would hold a primary, and six weeks after the primary, a special general election would be held.

During that four months, however, the governor would be allowed to appoint a temporary replacement for Senate, Quinn said.

In recent weeks, Burris has revealed that he may have misled a state legislative impeachment panel regarding his contacts with Blagojevich associates in the run-up to his appointment. Burris also acknowledged that he attempted to raise campaign cash for Blagojevich while lobbying for the Senate seat. Blagojevich was removed from office last month for the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme, among other alleged crimes.

Quinn said it is not in the public interest for revelations about Burris’ misstatements and possible misdeeds to continue to leak out “over and over and over.”

“It was a mistake from the very outset for Roland Burris to accept that appointment,” said Quinn, who added it was “a gigantic mistake.”

But Quinn praised Burris as a “wonderful human being,” who has had an “inspirational” career in Illinois politics. Burris was a trailblazing African-American political leader in the state who has served as state comptroller and state attorney general.

“To step away and resign is, I think, a heroic act, and I ask Roland to do it,” Quinn said.