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Blagojevich Must Set Election Date For Emanuel's Seat

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CHICAGO — Rep. Rahm Emanuel said Monday that he will resign his congressional seat this week, a development that draws further attention to Illinois' embattled governor and his role in filling vacancies in the state's legislative delegation.

The Democratic congressman delivered the news in automated telephone calls to constituents. He is leaving office to become President-elect Barack Obama's new chief of staff. He said he will resign his congressional seat Friday.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will play a role in replacing Emanuel; state law provides that the governor schedule a special election to take place within 115 days to fill the vacancy.

Emanuel has been swept up in the controversy surrounding Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, which include accusations that the governor tried to sell Obama's former Senate seat.

Emanuel _ elected to Congress in 2002 to replace Blagojevich in a district covering parts of Chicago and its suburbs _ was the only member of the Obama transition team to discuss the Senate appointment with the governor, according to a report released last week by the Obama team after an internal investigation. Emanuel gave Blagojevich and his top aide the names of people the president-elect thought would make good senators.

But the congressman didn't know Blagojevich was looking for something in return, and the conversations were "totally appropriate and acceptable," according to incoming White House lawyer Greg Craig, who conducted the investigation and wrote the report.

Neither Obama nor any staff member has been accused of wrongdoing. Emanuel has refused to discuss the matter publicly.

Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing in matters related to the Senate appointment.

Lucio Guerrero, the governor's spokesman, said he did not yet know when the governor intended to set the special election for the seat being vacated by Emanuel.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie _ a member of the House committee considering whether to recommend impeaching Blagojevich _ said he is "just hoping the governor follows the law to the letter."

"I think we'd prefer that he'd not do anything, but this is not as open-ended as appointing a senator," Lang said. "We need to make sure we have a congressman in place."

Several clout-heavy Chicago politicians have already expressed interest in replacing the 49-year-old congressman.