Illinois Democrats who were likely contenders to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate could face a fierce battle from Republicans if a special election is held after the fallout of the Blagojevich corruption scandal.
The scandal surrounding Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has sent shock waves through Illinois political circles -- not only casting a spotlight on the state's reputation for corruption but also potentially tainting the field of likely Democratic contenders for President-elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat. The most prominent name on that list of contenders, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., is literally facing howls of protests from some of his constituents. About a dozen protesters stood outside his Chicago office Saturday shouting, "Ho ho ho, Jesse Jr. gotta go." Protest organizer Harold Davis said he believes allegations that an emissary may have offered to raise money for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson being appointed to the Senate. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing.
So far, Blagojevich and his chief of staff are the only people facing charges in the federal investigation into the governor's alleged attempt to put a price tag on the appointment of Obama's replacement. But even if other Illinois Democrats have no connection to any wrongdoing, many have associated with Blagojevich. Political analysts suggest that those associations, however innocent, could make it difficult for a Democrat to claim the open Senate seat if a special election were held. "I think anybody who's been mentioned up to now -- Jesse Jackson, Tammy Duckworth, Valerie Jarrett -- I think they're all pretty tainted and they're not going to get it," said Democratic consultant William Bike, who is based in Chicago.
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party declined to be interviewed.
It isn't clear yet how the seat will be filled. Technically, Blagojevich still has the power to make the appointment, though he also faces pressure to resign and a movement to oust him. The state Legislature, meanwhile, may attempt to bypass the governor's office by scheduling a special election for the seat. If that happens, the protesters in Jackson's neighborhood are adamant that the congressman shouldn't be elected, though several passersby shouted support for Jackson. One yelled, "Leave Jesse alone." Jackson has denied any wrongdoing and told CNN on Saturday he wouldn't serve in the Senate if an appointment left a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head.
"I need to find out and we all need to find out the truth," he said, adding, "when the process is over, I profoundly hope that the people will give me my name back."
The Democratic Party is dominant in much of Illinois, especially Chicago. But could Republicans find an opening in a special election for Senate?
"I think all of these Blagojevich Democrats are going to have problems in the future," said one prominent GOP operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could speak freely about the political landscape. "Voters are angry," he added. "They are upset. They are sick and tired of this nonsense. ... If you're being perceived as working closely with the governor and being part of this mess, that poses a problem."
It would be funny to see Obama's seat filled by a Republican because of all of this.
Other ways to fill tech worker shortages
41 minutes ago