CHICAGO
12/09/2008 12:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Replacement: Blagojevich Mulls Senate Pick


Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Indictment News Updates, 12-9-08:

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR CHARGED WITH TRYING TO SELL OBAMA'S SEAT

ARRESTED THIS MORNING... WIRETAP: "I WANT TO MAKE MONEY"... "IF I DON'T GET WHAT I WANT... I'LL JUST TAKE THE SENATE SEAT MYSELF" (VIDEOS)

SCROLL DOWN FOR A SLIDESHOW OF POTENTIAL OBAMA REPLACEMENTS

UPDATE 12/8 9:30 P.M.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. met with Gov. Blagojevich for 90 minutes Monday and said he left feeling confident in the governor's selection process for Obama's replacement, according to the Tribune:

"I am convinced that the governor has a very thoughtful process that he has put in place and is wrestling and weighing a number of issues in this enormous decision that he has to make," Jackson said. "Today, I leave confident that the governor has put in place processes and that his interview process for this position is thoughtful."

UPDATE 12/8 12:50 P.M.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday that he will meet with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. about Obama's Senate seat later today. Jackson spoke recently with Blagojevich confidante John Wyma about the post, according to the Tribune.

Blagojevich called Jackson a "very strong" candidate, according to the AP.

In his meeting with Blagojevich, Jackson may bring up the remarks of incoming Senate Democratic campaign chairman Robert Menendez. The New Jersey Democrat told The Hill Saturday that he is opposed to a placeholder candidate and hopes that Blagojevich appoints someone who will be viable in the 2010 election:

Menendez expressed his hope that Blagojevich will avoid a placeholder appointee, as will New York Gov. David Paterson (D).

"Those are our standards, and I've spoken to both Gov. Blagojevich and Gov. Paterson about our desires," Menendez said. "And I think they share it with us in terms of making sure that whoever they consider appointing will meet those standards -- their ability to represent Illinois and New York well, as well as be able to win the seat in the next election that will be up for the rest of the expired term."

Menendez made his remarks the same weekend that outgoing State Senate President Emil Jones, a clear placeholder candidate, made his first public appeal for the position (See below).

UPDATE 12/8

Outgoing State Senate President Emil Jones publicly expressed his interest in replacing Barack Obama, his former Springfield protegee, in the United States Senate.

From the AP:

One of President-elect Barack Obama's political mentors in Illinois says he's interested in taking over his U.S. Senate seat.

Retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones says he is interested in the seat, but is not out promoting himself.

The Chicago Democrat made his comments Friday during a taping of WBBM Radio's "At Issue" program.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will select Obama's replacement and Jones is a longtime ally of the Democratic governor. Blagojevich has a list of interested people to choose from.

Jones, who is black, said the seat should be passed to a black replacement.

Blagojevich has said he'd like to make an announcement before Christmas.

Fox News, citing a single, anonymous source, called Jones "the front runner" for Obama's seat.

UPDATE 12/4 2:30 P.M.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is the favorite candidate to fill President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat, according to a Rasmussen telephone poll of 500 likely Illinois voters conducted Tuesday.

Among all Illinois residents, Madigan attracted 25% support, with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. a close second with 23%. Illinois Veteran's Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth was third, at 21%, with Rep. Jan Schakowsky at 7% and retiring State Senate President Emil Jones with 3%.

The numbers are far different among Democratic voters, who clearly favor Jackson:

The Chicago congressman who has been openly campaigning for the job has the support of 36% of Illinois Democrats [...] Tammy Duckworth, director of Illinois' Department of Veterans Affairs, is next with the backing of 29%, followed by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan with 17%.

Another congressman mentioned for the post, Rep. Jan Schakowksy, has eight percent (8%) support, with Emil Jones, president of the Illinois Senate, at two percent (2%). Just seven percent (7%) of Democrats are not sure which candidate they prefer.

Madigan also had the most votes among Republicans (37%) and Independents (23%), though Rasmussen that nearly one-third of respondents in those groups remain undecided.

Further breakdown:

Madigan is the leader among men with 28% support, while Jackson is the favorite of a plurality of women (29%). Next for women is Madigan with 22% backing. Second for men is Duckworth (24%), who gets 19% support among women. Just 15% of men support Jackson.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of African-Americans favor Jackson, compared to 10% of whites. Madigan gets the highest level of white support (31%), followed by Duckworth with 22%. Statistically, Madigan has 0% support among blacks.

Duckworth is the top choice of married Illinois residents, closely followed by Madigan. Jackson and Madigan are the top picks for unmarrieds.

Jackson's support is highest among low-income residents in the state, while those with higher-incomes prefer Madigan and Duckworth.

UPDATE 12/4

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that while he's beginning to raise money for a 2010 gubernatorial run, he would not rule out accepting an appointment to Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Giannoulias also said that staff within Blagojevich's office have "reached out" to him as a possible candidate to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, though a Blagojevich spokesman said the governor has not contacted Giannoulias directly.

Giannoulias said he's not pushing for the seat, but if it's offered he'd have to take a "very, very hard look," at the opportunity to work in Washington D.C. alongside his close friend Obama.

However Giannoulias, who is widely expected to challenge Gov. Blagojevich should he seek a third term, cautioned against trying to understand the unpredictable governor's thinking:

"If anybody tells you they know what he's going to do, I just think that's probably inaccurate," Giannoulias said. "I think he changes his mind left and right, so I don't think anybody has any idea what he's going to do, who he's going to pick."

UPDATE 12/3 10:00 A.M.

The push by African-American leaders to have Gov. Rod Blagojevich appoint an African-American to Obama's Senate seat may not succeed in the end. In his most extensive interview yet on the subject, Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet that race is "not the only factor or the only consideration."

From the interview:

"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.
[...]
"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."

Blagojevich told Sweet that he has spoken with Democratic Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez about the seat and is trying to setup a meeting with Jesse Jackson Jr. about it. Former state Senate President Emil Jones, Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan are at the top of what the governor described to Sweet as a long list.

Gutierrez, who had said he was out of the running after telling the governor he only wanted the seat for two years, was apparently 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."

Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been the most active campaigner for the seat, may have damaged his chances with his public appeals, according to Sweet:

Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm [about Jackson's campaign], 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."


UPDATE 12/3 7:50 A.M.

A coalition of community leaders and politicians are beginning a drive to push Gov. Rod Balgojevich to name an African-American to replace President-elect Obama in the Senate.

From the AP:

Community leaders and politicians say they're starting a petition drive to ask Gov. Rod Blagojevich to name a black person to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said Tuesday that with the president-elect's resignation there is no black U.S. senator. He says it'll be a "national disgrace" of a black Illinois politician doesn't replace him.

The decision rests entirely in Blagojevich's hands. The Chicago Democrat can choose anyone who meets the requirements: An Illinois resident at least 30 years old who has been a U.S. citizen for nine years.

Blagojevich has said little about his criteria for choosing a replacement, but says he plans to choose by the end of the year.

UPDATE 12/1 8:40 A.M.

The Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Jesse Jackson Jr. to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat Monday.

The paper lauded Jackson's work on health care, support for a third Chicago airport and ability to bring money to his district, and drew parallels between Jackson and the man is he hoping to replace.

From the editorial:

We believe Jackson, 43, has the drive, the passion and the experience. In his 13 years in Congress, he has distinguished himself as a thoughtful, committed legislator who fights for what he thinks is right.
[...]
Above all, we believe, Jackson shares the values and goals of the president-elect, a consideration of no small importance to us in making this endorsement. The voters of Illinois chose Obama twice -- first for the Senate and then for president -- and they deserve a replacement who fully shares the president-elect's agenda.

Jackson at times reminds us more of the consensus-inclined Obama, seeking to rise above race and factionalism, than his honorable but more divisive father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The son has even called out the father when he felt it necessary. Back in July, when the Rev. Jackson was caught whispering a rather ungentlemanly comment about Obama -- something, as we recall, about snipping Obama's manhood -- Rep. Jackson played it straight, saying he was "outraged and disappointed'' by his father's "reckless" mutterings.

The Sun-Times is the first of Chicago's two major daily newspapers to endorse a candidate for the seat. Jackson has already been endorsed by the SouthtownStar and Chicago Defender.

The Sun-Times also singled out Attorney General Lisa Madigan as a "superbly qualified candidate for the job":

She is an independent and highly effective leader and would make a terrific senator.

But we doubt Blagojevich would offer her the appointment, given that she is the daughter of his Springfield nemesis, House Speaker Mike Madigan. And we doubt Lisa Madigan would accept the appointment, given her obvious interest in running for governor in 2010.

UPDATE 11/28 12:00 P.M.

Gov. Blagojevich may have committed A Freudian slip Thursday when he twice referred to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis as "Senator Davis."

From the Chicago Sun-Times' account:

Gov. Blagojevich said it twice -- "Where's Sen. Davis?" -- with a sly smile, but also with an assured tone.

For a brief moment, it seemed as if the governor had chosen Chicago Congressman Danny Davis to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

But Blagojevich -- who along with Davis was visiting homeless people at a Chicago Christian Industrial League Thanksgiving meal Thursday -- quickly let it be known that he still hasn't made his choice about who should fill the remaining two years of Obama's Senate term.

Still, the governor went on to extol virtues he said would make Davis a worthy heir to Obama.

"Congressman Davis is a very good person. He and I have worked together in Congress, and I know the kind of man he is. I know that he is a good, decent man, and you don't find a lot of that in politics," Blagojevich said. "I'm breaking my rules about speculating on a candidate, but Congressman Davis is here, and I can tell you he's certainly a strong candidate for the position."

Davis has been campaigning publicly for the appointment to President-elect Obama's vacant seat.

UPDATE 11/26 5:00 P.M.

In a joint appearance on Chicago Tonight Tuesday, Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez discussed their interest in Obama's Senate seat. Jackson said that he had not spoken with Gov. Blagojevich about the appointment, while Gutierrez expanded on his earlier account of his conversation with the governor, in which he said that he is only interested in holding the seat for the remainder of Obama's term and would not run again in 2010. Blagojevich, according to Gutierrez, is not interested in a placeholder candidate and wants to appoint someone who will run for a full term.

Watch the exchange (h/t Progress Illinois):

Gutierrez told the Sun-Times' Abdon Pallasch, "It's basically over -- unless [Blagojevich] calls me back," but the governor's team was not that definitive. From the AP:

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Tuesday he would serve only two years if named to the Senate even though Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to appoint someone who would run for a full six-year term.

The difference would seem to eliminate Gutierrez as a possible replacement for Barack Obama, who resigned his Senate seat after being elected president.

But neither Gutierrez nor Blagojevich would go that far in statements after meeting in Chicago.

Gutierrez said he is "honored and gratified to be considered so seriously," while a spokesman said the governor thinks Gutierrez "would make an excellent senator."

The decision on who will replace Obama rests entirely in Blagojevich's hands. The Chicago Democrat can choose anyone who meets the constitutional requirements: An Illinois resident at least 30 years old who has been a U.S. citizen for nine years.


UPDATE 11/25 4:15 P.M.

Politico's Ben Smith is reporting that Rep. Luis Gutierrez has turned down the opportunity to replace Obama in the Senate. However, it is unclear from Smith's report, which cites a "well-placed Illinois Democrat," and Gutierrez's statement whether he was formally offered the position.

Gutierrez's statement:

Today I had a very productive and gratifying conversation with Governor Blagojevich about the U.S. Senate. I shared with Governor Blagojevich that I would be honored to be appointed to the vacant U.S. Senate seat. I also told him that I would not be interested in running for a full term in 2010....

Governor Blagojevich shared with me today that he was very interested in me as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, but that his preference is to appoint someone who will run for a full term in 2010. I am honored and gratified to be considered so seriously for this important position. I fully understand his preference to appoint an individual who has a long-term commitment to this vital position. I told Governor Blagojevich today that I will assist him in any way I can in this process.

Gutierrez's statement about Gov. Blagojevich's interest in appointing someone who will run again in 2010 is the first indication that the governor does not want a mere seatwarmer to run out the remainder of Obama's term.


UPDATE 11/24 6:40 P.M.

Senator Dick Durbin finally spoke with Gov. Blagojevich about President-elect Obama's Senate replacement, according to a comment from a Durbin staffer to Capitol Fax. Durbin, who has an uneasy relationship with Blagojevich, had publicly expressed his frustration that the governor had not been returning his calls.

Though Delaware's governor named a replacement for Vice President-elect Joe Biden today, Blagojevich said that he remains in no rush to fill Obama's seat, according to the Daily Herald:

The governor also said he was not ready to make an appointment to Obama's old Senate seat. He has had a team working on vetting candidates for weeks.

In some of his remarks, he implied he may do so by Christmas, but he gave no indication of who might get the plum appointment.

"We are still working on it," he said. "It is a process that requires a lot of deliberation. It is not the sort of thing you should push."

UPDATE 11/24 8:15 A.M.

Incoming White House senior advisor David Axelrod appeared on Fox Chicago Sunday and briefly discussed President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Obama has spoken with Gov. Blagojevich about the seat, Axelrod said, but did not offer a specific endorsement.

"There's a whole range of names that have surfaced," Axelrod said. "I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

Asked if an African-American should be appointed, Axelrod echoed the now-common refrain that it "shouldn't be the only barometer or yardstick in this selection."

Axelrod also said that while Obama has an obvious personal interest in Illinois politics, he will not remain actively involved and "won't be a kingmaker or boss here in Illinois."

Full video of Axelrod's appearance is at Progress Illinois.

UPDATE 11/19 6:45 P.M.

Gov. Blagojevich called Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss Obama's vacant Senate seat, The Hill reports. The report did not confirm whether the governor called Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Two of the lawmakers said they were told they were on the governor's "list" and reported having positive conversations with Blagojevich. Both Davis and Schakowsky also said they took the opportunity to reaffirm their interest and once again make their pitch.

Davis and Schakowsky said Blagojevich reiterated his desire to make his selection sometime between mid-December and the end of the year.

Davis called the conversation "a reaffirmation" of his interest in the seat, while Schakowsky told The Hill that they discussed their shared interest in health care and her confidence in her ability to retain the seat in 2010:

"I love to campaign. And I would love to campaign statewide," Schakowsky said Wednesday night.

Gutierrez, who confirmed his conversation with Blagojevich to The Hill, reiterated that his priority is in being where he can best advocate for immigration reform.

As the lobbying for the appointment heats up, Chicago Public Radio questioned whether any of it crosses an ethical line:

Recently, employees of two members of Congress from Illinois have wandered into that gray area. From his government email address, an aide to Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., distributed several messages to reporters related to the vacancy. One included an attachment, a poll, which showed voters in Illinois favor Jackson for the Senate seat, although not overwhelmingly. The congressman's office could not provide a comment in time for this story.

Another Democrat hoping for the Senate seat, Congressman Danny Davis, held a press conference recently, with the stated purpose of allowing his supporters to "REAFFIRM SUPPORT FOR DAVIS TO REPLACE BARACK OBAMA AS U.S. SENATOR."

Davis' chief of staff contacted reporters about the event, in one instance using her government email account.

UPDATE 11/18 3:30 P.M.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan all but eliminated herself as a contender for Obama's Senate seat Tuesday, saying the chance "is less than zero" that Gov. Blagojevich would offer it to her.

From the AP:

Madigan on Tuesday said she doesn't think she was even being considered and she's thinking instead about a possible run for Blagojevich's job.

The Chicago Democrat also said she liked her job as attorney general.
[...]
Madigan's father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, is the governor's political nemesis.

Listen to Madigan's remarks here.

UPDATE 11/17 5:40 P.M.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. continued his public campaign for Barack Obama's now-open Senate seat in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC Monday. Asked about the role race should play in Gov. Blagojevich's selection, Jackson said, "I don't think that it's that important at all that the governor makes a decision based upon race." Jackson praised Obama for doing "an extraordinary thing: he united the northern part of our state with the southern part of our state," and attempted to paint himself as a candidate who could function similarly.

Watch the interview:

U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, a centrist Democrat from the Northern suburbs, was mentioned as a contender on MSNBC's First Read blog Monday and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis held a press conference Sunday to tout the endorsement of a group of West Side politicians:

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) wants to replace president-elect Barack Obama as Illinois' junior senator.
[...]
The group Westside Black Elected Officials endorsed Davis at the event. The organization is made up of Illinois state senators, state representatives, Chicago aldermen and Cook County commissioners.

UPDATE 11/15 3:20 P.M.

Sen. Dick Durbin said Friday that he does not believe race should be the sole criteria in selecting President-elect Obama's replacement in the Senate, the Tribune reports:

"I understand there's a strong sentiment in the African-American community in this state that the replacement of the only African-American in the Senate be another African-American, and we have a number of talented people who could certainly fill that role," said Durbin, Illinois' senior senator and a leading Democrat in the Senate. "If it were my decision to make, it wouldn't be a litmus test, it wouldn't be the only consideration. I would look for the most talented person who could serve this state and who would be likely . . . elected two years from now."

On Saturday U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a contender for the seat, said he agreed with Durbin's statement.

Speaking to reporters after an immigration event at a Pilsen church, Gutierrez said, "The quicker we get away from ... simply referring to elected officials by the color of their skin and their national origin the better [for] this country."

Gutierrez said he expects to talk to Gov. Blagojevich, whom he referred to as a friend, about the seat Monday.

Watch video of Gutierrez's remarks at Progress Illinois.

UPDATE 11/14 11:30 A.M.

Illinois Veteran's Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth's chances to be appointed to President-elect Obama's Senate seat may be smaller because of her increasingly close ties to Sen. Dick Durbin, the Sun-Times reports:

Duckworth, a disabled Iraqi war veteran who heads the state's Veterans Affairs Department, has close ties to Obama's political organization and has been a popular member of Blagojevich's Cabinet. The governor personally feted her during a reception at the Democratic National Convention in August.

But her odds of landing Obama's seat appear to be dimming because of her closeness to Sen. Dick Durbin, who has an icy relationship with the governor, yet has sought input into the selection process. This week, Durbin identified Duckworth as being on his list of hopefuls for the Obama seat.

The Blagojevich camp has been mentioning Duckworth as potential replacement for both Obama and his new chief of staff, U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel. But Duckworth has "minimal interest" in Emanuel's Congressional seat, the Sun-Times reports, hoping instead for Obama's seat or an appointment as Veteran's Affairs Secretary under Obama. There is already a national grassroots veteran's effort to have Duckworth named head of the federal VA.


UPDATE 11/13 7:00 P.M.

President-elect Barack Obama's Thursday announcement that he will resign his Senate seat on Sunday put added pressure on Gov. Blagojevich to choose his replacement. Blagojevich has said that he hoped to appoint a successor by Christmas.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has lobbied especially hard for the post, commissioning a poll on his statewide viability, creating a Facebook group boosting his candidacy and emailing reporters to tout two newspaper endorsements that backed him for the job. But these efforts may be for naught, reports CBS 2's Mike Flannery.

Flannery, citing anonymous state government sources, says the governor has "all but ruled out" appointing Jackson. The short list, Flannery says, includes Illinois Veteran's Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and retiring State Senate President Emil Jones. Dan Seals, who just lost his second consecutive Congressional bid against North Shore Republican Mark Kirk, was also mentioned as a candidate.

Watch the report:

Senator Dick Durbin said that Duckworth is among those he would recommend for the job:

"I have several names and certainly Tammy would be on that list," said Durbin, visiting an Illinois Wesleyan University class Wednesday.

But Illinois' senior senator said in an interview on the
"Spike O'Dell Show" Thursday that he would not be in favor of appointing someone like Jones in a caretaker role:

"I really hope that the governor will be picking someone who can serve the state rather than the caretaker or someone who is, you know, trying to put some last line on their resume," Durbin said. "I don't want to see that happen. I'd like to see him pick someone who can really help me and help our state."

But Durbin hasn't had much luck getting Blagojevich to listen to his input:

"There's only one vote in this election--it's Governor Blagojevich, and I don't have a close personal relationship with him, but I've asked to meet with him and talk about this because the person he's going to choose is someone I'll be serving with in Washington".

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, another contender who has worked closely with Blagojevich in both the state legislature and Congress, reiterated her interest in the seat on the "Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC Wednesday:

UPDATE 11/12 6:08 P.M.

Valerie Jarrett's announcement that she is "not interested" in Obama's Senate seat is good news for the other candidates vying for the job.

"The list is now shorter," a Blagojevich confidante told the Tribune.

Obama representatives had been floating Jarrett's name to the governor, the paper reports, and Blagojevich's camp was surprised by her announcement.

Jarrett's statement is an indication that "she's more valuable to Obama in the White House than in his cabinet," Lynn Sweet writes in the Sun-Times, and will likely have a senior position in the administration.

Jarrett's removal from the running is a boon to the remaining candidates. One of them, retiring State Senate President Emil Jones, danced around the subject when asked about it Wednesday by the Tribune:

"It would be a great honor, you know" Jones said. "It would be a great honor."

Pressed about his chances of getting appointed by Blagojevich, a longtime ally, Jones said: "I don't know."

Jones brushed aside questions about whether he had talked to Blagojevich, saying, "You think I should?... Since you asked the question, maybe I should."

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who is considered a longshot candidate, was far more direct about his desire for the post:

"Yes, I am interested. Yes, there are people who have suggested to me that they would be supportive and that they are supportive of an effort to convince the governor to appoint me to fill that vacancy," Davis said.

"I couldn't think of any reason I wouldn't be interested."

UPDATE 11/12 3:30 P.M.

Valerie Jarrett, a close friend of President-elect Obama and a member of his transition team, removed herself from contention to replace him the Senate, the Tribune reports.

"I am not interested in the Senate seat," Jarrett told the Tribune this afternoon.

[...]

Saying she was busy with the president-elect in Chicago, Jarrett declined to answer additional questions.

Despite never having held elected office, Jarrett had been considered a front-runner for the post after reports surfaced that she was Obama's choice to succeed him. On Monday evening, CNN reported that Jarrett would not be replacing Obama and would instead be working in the administration in some capacity.

UPDATE 11/11 5:50 P.M.

Senator Dick Durbin has a preference to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, but declined to reveal it to reporters after a Veteran's Day event in Springfield.

From the AP:

Senator Dick Durbin says the person who replaces Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate must try to represent all of Illinois.

The Springfield Democrat says Obama did a great job of trying to help the entire state, not just his home of Chicago.

Durbin says Obama should be replaced by someone "who understands there are 102 counties in this state."

After a Veteran's Day event in Springfield, Durbin said he has someone in mind to take over when Obama goes to the White House. But Durbin would not divulge any names, saying he wanted to discuss it with the governor.

UPDATE 11/11 2:10 P.M.

A new poll commissioned by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. suggests he is voters' top choice to replace Obama:

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is touting a new poll that he says shows him as the favorite to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate.

A Zogby telephone poll from Nov. 5-6 shows that 21 percent of likely voters across Illinois think that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) should appoint Jackson to Obama's seat. The second leading candidate, Tammy Duckworth, the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, garnered 14 percent support.

Jackson commissioned and released the poll to rebut criticism that he would face difficulty holding the seat in a statewide race in 2010 after the expiration of a two-year appointed term.

The poll shows Jackson with a 43 percent favorable and a 22 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters. Duckworth received a 31 percent favorable and 9 percent unfavorable rating.

The survey also shows Jackson beating retiring GOP Rep. Ray LaHood (Ill.) in a hypothetical statewide match-up.

UPDATE 11/11 11:35 A.M.

Illinois Veteran's Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth is being pushed for the national VA Secretary post, the Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports. The effort, if it's successful, would obviously eliminate Duckworth from the pool of candidates to fill Obama's Senate seat.

From the Huffington Post report:

A grassroots effort is underway for Barack Obama to appoint Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War and onetime congressional candidate, as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in his incoming administration.

Democratic-leaning veterans groups are pushing the appointment among activists and reporters, even launching a petition drive to get Duckworth into the administration.

"If Tammy was offered the Secretary of the VA, she'd excel at it," said Jon Soltz, the head of the veterans group VoteVets.org and one of the leading advocates for a Duckworth appointment. "She uniquely understands the issues facing not just older generations of veterans, but our newest veterans as well."

UPDATE 11/10 10:28 P.M.

Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace the President-elect in the Senate and will instead work with him in the White House, CNN reports, citing two anonymous Democratic sources.

"While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House," one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.

This contradicts earlier reports from CNN and ABC Chicago that Jarrett was Obama's choice to succeed him.

UPDATE 11/10 11:15 A.M.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was endorsed Monday by the SouthtownStar, the leading paper on Chicago's South Side and suburbs, to fill Barack Obama's Senate term.

From the editorial
:

For 13 years, we've watched Jackson up close. He is one of Congress' most reliable advocates for the middle class while supporting economic development for large and small businesses alike. Of the $600 million in federal appropriations he has secured for the 2nd District, nearly every cent has gone toward infrastructure projects, colleges and universities, housing and health care programs, and police and firefighter grants.

There are no bridges to nowhere. There are no statues, no stained-glass windows. He uses his position on the House Appropriations Committee to fund programs in his district that help working families. He is not afraid to call out wasteful spending when he sees it.
[...]
Democrats want Blagojevich to choose someone who can be elected statewide in 2010. Although downstate voters aren't shy about their distrust of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackson Jr. is not his father's cutout.
[...]
We hope, Governor, that you will take a wide, holistic view of the contributions Jackson could make to the state of Illinois, and to the country, in making this selection.

UPDATE 11/10 9:30 A.M.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington dismissed the prospects of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris Monday and drew attention to a longshot candidate whose name continues to crop up despite a lack of legislative experience.

Of Burris, who has been touting his own candidacy, Washington writes:

Burris is "putting together" a pitch for the seat.

I can think of one reason it shouldn't be Burris. We already have an oversupply of egomaniacal blowhards in the Senate. Burris once interviewed me for a job. The session lasted one hour. He spent 55 minutes talking about himself.

A candidate with a far better chance is Blagojevich's former communications director, Cheryle Jackson. Now president of the Chicago Urban League, the African-American woman is the "over-under bet," according to Washington.

Washington says the governor, who has not offered a timetable for the selection, told her he expects to make a decision by Christmas, or before "if 'unforseeeable circumstances' arise."

UPDATE 11/9 5:02 PM

Real estate executive Valerie Jarrett, a member of Obama's transition team and a trusted family confidant, is President-elect Obama's choice to replace him in the Senate, reports ABC 7's Ben Bradley.

Without citing any sources, Bradley reports:

Whether that is merely Obama's personal opinion, or if he intends to lobby on Jarrett's behalf, remains to be seen. After all, Obama has to focus on a national agenda and may not want to be seen trying to influence the governor's call.

An anonymous source told CNN the same thing.

Jesse Jackson Jr. continued his public campaign for the job:

In addition to former Chicago Transit Authority chair and Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett, outgoing State Senate President Emil Jones, Illinois Veteran Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Luis Gutierrez and Jesse Jackson Jr. are among the names being discussed.

"I anxiously await a phone call from the governor, and I'm sure many Chicagoans do. There are many capable names being bandied about. It would be my honor, but of course, it's his decision," said Jackson.

UPDATE 11/7 5:02 P.M.

Watch Obama discuss his Senate replacement:

UPDATE 11/7 2:09 P.M.

President-elect Barack Obama discussed the selection of his successor in the Senate at his first post-election news conference Friday.

While reiterating that it is "the governor's decision," and not his own, Obama said that the "criteria I would have for my successor would be the same criteria I'd have if I were a voter: somebody who is capable ... passionate about helping working families in Illinois meet their dreams."

There are, Obama said in closing, "a lot of good choices out there but it is the governor's decision not mine."

UPDATE 11/7

Illinois Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth said Friday that she would be "honored" to either fill Barack Obama's Senate seat or serve in the next president's administration, according to the Associated Press.

But she has not yet been approached for either post:

But Duckworth says she hasn't heard from either the governor or Obama, and she says she was surprised when her name came up.

Duckworth lost both legs in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq, and the Democrat ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006. She says she can serve veterans wherever she works, in Illinois or in Washington.

Duckworth's 2006 candidacy was championed by Obama's new chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who was then the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Also Friday, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez confirmed his interest in filling Obama's seat, the Tribune reports.

The Illinois Democrat said he has talked a few times with Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the prospect, and said he and the governor will talk more next week.
[...]
When asked who approached whom about the subject, Gutierrez shrugged and said: "We talked."

"My priority isn't being in the House or being in the Senate," Gutierrez said. "My priority is immigration reform. Wherever I feel I can be most effective is where I want to be."

UPDATE 11/7

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. talked up his readiness for the Senate on CNBC Thursday night:

"I'd be honored, I'd be humbled and yes, I would,'' Jackson replied on the cable network's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. "But it is the decision of the governor of the state of Illinois, he'll have to make that judgment."

Outgoing State Senate President Emil Jones may be retiring from the Illinois Senate, but he made it clear to the AP that he is quite open to the U.S. Senate:

Chicago Democrat Emil Jones is retiring from being Illinois Senate president but he won't rule out being Illinois' new U.S. senator in Washington.

Jones told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday that he would consider it a great honor if Gov. Rod Blagojevich chose him to be Barack Obama's successor.

The 73-year-old Chicago Democrat said he's too young to retire and has several options to remain active.

Blagojevich has often lavished praise on Jones, but has set no deadline to name Obama's replacement.

The successor would serve the remainder of the term, ending January 2011.

Jones declined to say whether he would commit to run for the office in 2010 if he were appointed now.

The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board floated some new names Friday, few of whom have garnered serious mention before, who fit the paper's sense that the Senate should "reflect our diverse country":

• • Valerie Jarrett: Obama confidante, former city official, real estate executive and housing expert.

• • Frank Clark, ComEd chief executive, active on more than a dozen civic boards and organizations.

• • Eric Whitaker, former state public health director and University of Chicago Medical Center executive.

• • Miguel del Valle, a thoughtful and committed former state senator and current city clerk.

• • Gery Chico, former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, Chicago Board of Education president and U.S. Senate candidate.

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UPDATE 11/6

State Senator Kwame Raoul, the man who succeeded Barack Obama in Springfield in 2004, is being floated as a dark horse candidate to follow Obama in the United States Senate.

From the AP:

Obama's political mentor, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, suggested at the Democratic National Convention that Raoul would be a good replacement for Obama on Capitol Hill.

Jones' longtime lieutenant, state Senator Donne Trotter, also mentioned Raoul Wednesday as a possibility for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint to the remaining two years of Obama's term.

Trotter says he also would be honored to be a U.S. senator.

Raoul says if offered the job he would need to think about it for about three seconds before saying "yes."

Raoul acknowledged the unlikelihood of his appointment to the AP, saying he was aware of "the pecking order."

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UPDATE

Gov. Blagojevich has apparently abandoned the idea of forming a special commission to help pick Barack Obama's Senate successor and will instead rely on his own staff, along with input from Obama.

From the AP's account of Blagojevich's Wednesday press conference:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says members of his senior staff will help check out candidates who want to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate because the Democrat is headed to the White House.

Blagojevich told reporters at a Wednesday news conference that he won't his rush decision to name Obama's successor.

The governor says he'd like to be in a position to make an announcement before Christmas but he didn't want to over promise. The latest he says he could go is around the New Year.

Blagojevich said whatever thoughts Obama has on the subject would carry a lot of weight.

Blagojevich said he's "not interested" in appointing himself, the Tribune reports, "but did not expressly rule out the option."

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From the Associated Press:

The campaign of change that led Barack Obama to the White House will bring tangible change to Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich now has the task of selecting the junior U.S. senator's replacement.

Blagojevich could tap virtually anyone. The only restrictions are that the person must be at least

30 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least nine years and an Illinois resident.

But the lobbying began long before Obama won the election, and several Democratic politicians already have emerged as possible replacements. Blagojevich planned a news conference Wednesday to discuss his selection process. It's unclear if the president-elect will weigh in.

Whoever is appointed will fill out the rest of Obama's six-year term, which ends in January 2011. While the law sets out no timetable, the appointment is likely before the 111th Congress begins on Jan. 3. Obama must formally resign from the Senate.

Much speculation, some fueled by the interested parties themselves, has surrounded members of the state's congressional delegation, including black Chicago Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Danny Davis, along with white Evanston Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Jackson and Schakowsky served as national co-chairs of the Obama presidential campaign.

Another name repeatedly brought up has been Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq war veteran who lost her first political race in 2006 running for Congress in Chicago's suburbs. She has since become the governor's veterans affairs director.

Some have suggested that Obama's mentor in Chicago and Statehouse politics, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who announced he would be retiring in January, may succeed Obama, at least on an interim basis.

Any number of statewide elected officials also could get the nod, ranging from Blagojevich, who is able to choose himself, to Comptroller Dan Hynes or Attorney General Lisa Madigan, both potential Democratic rivals for the governor in 2010.

Obama will leave behind the only U.S. Senate seat held by a black politician, and Blagojevich has been under pressure from black leaders to pick a black successor. The Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, has endorsed Jackson, a 13-year congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

For the governor, with an approval rating in the basement and federal investigations into his administration's handing out of jobs and contracts, that would seem to be politically pragmatic move. He has heavily relied on black support in the General Assembly to move his agenda, which has often been opposed by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. He could also use black voters' support in the 2010 primary.

The only black statewide officeholder is Secretary of State Jesse White, who has flatly ruled out becoming a U.S. senator and said he will seek re-election.

Who Will Be Obama's Successor?