The Race to Replace Obama II

(Thanks to American007 for putting this together. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Well, with the election of President Barack Obama (I will never get tired of typing that) looking more and more like a certainty, it's time once again to get elbow deep in the muck that is Illinois politics. In this diary, I'll be taking an updated look at possible appointees to Obama's Senate seat.

A quick reminder of the rules at play here. The Constitution states that a congress person must be at least 30, a citizen for at least 9 years prior to entering the Senate, and must live in the state they represent. Beyond that, there are no rules. Governor Rod Blagojevich can appoint whoever he likes to the position, without having to have that pick voted on or vetted by anyone.

So here are my odds on who the pick will be:

2-1: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)

Often, when a governor must appoint someone to fill a vacant seat, their first reaction is to fill the seat with someone as close to the genuine article as possible. In that regard, Jackson Jr. is the man for the job. He's an almost universally well-liked Representative from the south side of Chicago. It helps that he's one of Obama's closest allies, having put out fires started by his father several times. Plus, appointing Jackson will help keep the “upstate senator/downstate senator” balance with the downstater Dick Durbin.

In addition, Gov. Blago has to be feeling the pressure to appoint an African-American to the seat, lest the 111th Congress have no African-American senators.

Working against Jackson is the fact that he is disliked by the Daley machine, a powerful contingent that has kept him out of some House committees in the past. The other factor working against Jackson is his father, who has been a thorn in seemingly everybody's sides this election cycle.

5-1: Lisa Madigan (IL Atty. General)

Unlike others, I'm giving much higher odds to Lisa Madigan. Madigan, a rising star in Illinois politics, matches the profile of a serious candidate for the Senate. She's young, liberal, ambitious, well-connected, and wildly popular. Unlike Jackson, she's won a statewide race. Plus, by appointing her, Gov. Blago gets one of his fiercest critics out of his hair, and wins favor with another: Lisa's father, and Speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan. A potential 2 for the price of 1, if you will.

However, Gov. Blago's many political enemies are like the mythical Hydra: cut down one, and two grow in their place. Even if Madigan weren't around to challenge him in 2010, other candidates are ready to step in. Also, the Senate currently has 13 women, but only one African-American.

5-1: Tammy Duckworth (IL Dir. of Veterans Affairs)

One candidate that all the political forces in Illinois can agree on is Tammy Duckworth. She is reportedly well-liked by Durbin, Obama, Rahm Emmanuel and even Gov. Blago. If appointed, she would be first Asian-American women in the Senate (one of three Asian senators in the next congress if appointed), and to my knowledge, the first Iraqi War veteran in the Senate.

The only thing holding her back is the fact that she has never been elected to a public office before. While she came close in 2006, and has served as the appointed Director of Veteran's Affairs, nearly all the other people being considered for the position have at least one publicly elected position in their resume. In addition, Obama may be “saving” Duckworth for a cabinet position, specifically the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

10-1: Dan Hynes (IL Comptroller)

As with Lisa Madigan, appointing Dan Hynes gets rid of a popular political rival who may challenge Gov. Blago in 2010. Also working in Hynes's favor is the fact that he was the party's runner up to Barack Obama in the 2004 Senate primary. In a way then, it only seems fair to appoint Hynes to the post.

However, appointing Hynes does little to take the pressure off Gov. Blago and carries the stigma of replacing the Senate's only African-American with a middle-aged white guy.

15-1: Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL)

Rep. Emmanuel represents perhaps the most interesting possibility. Likely, he doesn't even want the job. Currently, he's the fourth most powerful figure in the house, and has publically stated his dream to be the first Jewish Speaker of the House. 

And therein lies the rub. The past session, Emmanuel has been following Speaker Pelosi around like a sick puppy, with his ambitions more or less obvious. Scuttlebutt around Washington is that Pelosi would like to see Emmanuel out of her hair by getting him appointed to the Senate. Whether or not Pelosi could pull enough strings to get him appointed against his will and to accept the appointment remains the most intriguing possibility in this “race”.

20-1: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Rep. Schakowsky from the Evanston area has somewhat of a cult following among some progressives, and she's been one of the more outspoken people looking for the job. But some shady ethical lapses by her husband make her an easy target in 2010, and therefore a long shot for the job.

20-1: William M. Daley (fmr. Sec. of Commerce, Daley)

Appointing William Daley takes out one possible opponent for Gov. Blago's possible re-election bid in 2010. It also curries favor with the Daley machine, something that's always valuable in Illinois politics.

However, Daley suffers from the “old white guy” problem and downstate voters in 2010 might chafe at the idea of more power in the hands of the Daley's. Also, like Duckworth, Obama may be “saving” Daley for a cabinet or other high level appointment.

25-1: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)

Gutierrez, the first Hispanic Senator elected from the Midwest, would be an ideal candidate for the job. However, his somewhat quite personality makes him a long shot for the position in my opinion. In the dirty world of Illinois politics, the squeaky, well-connected wheel gets the plum jobs.

100-1: Gov. Rod Blagovich (D-IL)

Gov. Blago would have to be mildly insane to appoint himself to the position. But, then again, when your approval rating lies somewhere between President Bush and stomach flu, you might as well go for broke. If he did, it would almost surely mean a primary challenge in 2010 and a likely loss of the usually reliably Democrat seat. And the scary thing is; rumor has it, he's considering going through with it.

  • I don't pretend to be a mind-reader

    but I don’t think the governor would appoint someone he dislikes (Jackson) when there are other very credible choices.

    If Obama doesn’t put Duckworth in the cabinet, I think she’ll end up in the Senate.

    I like Schakowsky, and she’d probably be my favorite, but her husband has too much baggage for her to be picked.

  • My money is on Jesse Jackson, Jr.

    I saw Jesse Jackson, Jr., at the DNC in a few places, and my first thought looking back is that he’s at least making a play for Obama’s senate seat should Obama win the presidency.  His speech on stage used lofty language (even though it was not in prime time), and it was reminiscent of Obama’s 2004 speech.

    More importantly, watching him work crowds around the convention center, it was clear that he was being cautious about whom he took a photo with and how he replied to voters’ questions — more cautious than a relatively safe congressman needs to be.

    So while I don’t know much of anything about Blagojevich, I am confident that Jesse Jackson, Jr., is at least making a play for Senate.

  • Jackson

    Jesse Jackson Jr. has been out there for a while, but would the Republicans use his father against him to make enough political hay out of it to win this seat?

    • they would try

      but I think Illinois is a much different state than it was 15 or 20 years ago. It would be a big uphill battle for any Republican unless the Democratic candidate was truly radioactive (like Blagojevich).

      I still think the governor will not tap Jackson, but if he did I bet Jackson could hold the seat.

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