Illinois needs a new U.S. Senator. President-elect Barack Obama has resigned from his seat, getting ready to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and that means someone will have to join the 99 other members of the U.S. Senate. There has been feverish lobbying
Illinois needs a new U.S. Senator. President-elect Barack Obama has resigned from his seat, getting ready to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and that means someone will have to join the 99 other members of the U.S. Senate.
There has been feverish lobbying and politicking over Obama’s replacement, which will be chosen by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Already, there is healthy contention in the Black community over the replacement for Obama. There are factions that favor Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Danny Davis and retiring state Senate President Emil Jones. Some folks have mentioned former U.S. Senator Carol Mosley Braun, state Sen. Rev. James Meeks, Secretary of State Jesse White and former State Comptroller Roland Burris.
Blagojevich, who is currently suffering from abysmal approval ratings, (even lower than George Bush’s) has not hinted about any choice. He is certainly close to Jones, and he is supposedly friendly with Danny Davis. Certainly, Blagojevich has his own criteria, and I won’t suggest I know his mind.
But the Black community should not allow Blagojevich an option. He should choose a Black candidate to replace Obama, who was the only Black member of the Senate. That means that Black people should decide on a nominee and not allow Blagojevich the weasel room to say he wanted to choose a Black person but there was no consensus candidate so he had to choose someone else.
Now, I don’t speak for anyone but me, and my opinion, plus 25 cents, will leave you 25 cents short of the price of this newspaper. But I think Blagojevich should choose Jesse Jackson Jr.
Before West Side folks put the scream on me and tout Danny Davis, let me say up front that I have the utmost respect for Davis. He is a man of the community and his tenure on the City Council, county board and in Congress makes him a formidable talent. He even sounds like what a senator should sound like. But all of that experience probably is the best argument to keep him in Congress, where his seniority will mean he can be a great asset to President Obama.
If I were a West Side resident, (I’m not, but I am in Davis’ district) I’d want to keep Davis right where he is, so he can continue to provide the kind of leadership to the district. It is not something we can afford to lose.
Jones is retiring at the end of this year, and appointing him to the spot will certainly cap a stellar legislative career. But this is not a ceremonial post. This is a person who will be senator for the entire state of Illinois, not a personal plum for Obama’s political godfather.
Now, I don’t know Jesse Jr. very well. I’ve spoken to him a few times, seen him in passing at a few events, read some of the op-eds and letters he’s sent to my desk. I’ve heard him speak, and I’ve researched his stands on issues. He is actually fairly close to Barack Obama’s stands on many issues, which is probably why he was co-chair of Obama’s national campaign.
And let’s just get it out in the open. We really do have to start looking at bringing some youth into our politics. Obama was Jesse Jr.’s age when he joined the Senate. Obviously, youth is a factor. That would argue against Jones, who just celebrated his 73rd birthday, and, to a lesser extent, Davis, who is 67.
And let’s remember, whomever is chosen will have to run in 2010. Would Davis be a more viable statewide candidate than Jesse Jr., who already has a recognizable name? Despite his considerable achievements, would Emil Jones be able to carry his campaign downstate? Who retires to the U.S. Senate?
Yes, they say that Jesse Jr. is ambitious, and if so, it is a grievous fault. But I seem to remember that local politicians talked negatively about the ambition of a certain young state senator and the audacity he had to run for U.S. Senator and then U.S. President, after only two years as a senator.
What we certainly do not need is a South Side/West Side rift regarding the U.S. Senate seat (so much for unity in the community). While the West Side Black Elected Officials are steadfast in their support for Davis, and a Zogby poll showed Jackson the leading candidate, the key should be to present a qualified, consensus candidate that Blagojevich can ignore at his own risk.
That person is Jesse Jackson Jr.
Lou Ransom is Executive Editor of the Chicago Defender. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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