Governor appoints Roland Burris to U.S. Senate seat

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Secretary of State Jesse White said no disrespect to former Attorney General Roland Burris and his being named by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat, but he will not certify Burris’ appointment.

Secretary of State Jesse White said no disrespect to former Attorney General Roland Burris and his being named by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat, but he will not certify Burris’ appointment. At a Tuesday press conference at the Thompson Center downtown, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had said previously through his attorney that he would not appoint anyone to the Senate seat, gave the post to Burris, 71, who also served as the state’s comptroller. Blagojevich was resolute and somewhat contentious as he asserted his gubernatorial duty and legal right to make the senatorial appoint, even as he is free on bond in a corruption case in which the U.S. Attorney’s office claims he tried to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder, for his own personal, political and financial gain. He was arrested at his Northwest Side home early morning on Dec. 9. "The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States senators represent them in Washington D.C.," Blagojevich said at the news conference. "As governor, I am required to make this appointment." Speaking at the press conference, Burris accepted the nomination, which he previously said he would not accept from Blagojevich, and said the governor is “innocent until proven guilty.” Burris denied having any connection to the charges against the governor. Secretary of State Jesse White issued a statement indicating that he would not certify the appointment. He later appeared at the same podium and stressed that he would not certify Blagojevich’s appointment of Burris, whom he said he has known for 25 years. “I am not a rubber stamp,” White said. “I am not buying into whatever the governor is doing. I will not participate in anything the governor does.” Burris stuttered at the press conference when asked by reporters why White should certify his appointment. Blagojevich stepped in to answer for the speechless Burris. The governor said to not make his appointment and to not certify it would “deprive” Illinoisans of representation in the U.S. Senate. Though a spokesman for White’s office said it is “not quite clear” what not certifying the appointment would mean for Burris, White remains steadfast that he “cannot co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.” But U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-1st, speaking at the press conference, said White “acted prematurely” in issuing the statement to not certify. Rush had pushed for an African American to replace Barack Obama’s Senate seat when Obama won the presidency. Tuesday, Rush reiterated his stance and said there was “no rhyme or reason” for Burris to not be certified. Burris was the first Black politician elected to a statewide office with his 1978 win as comptroller. He held that position until 1991, when he made a successful bid for the attorney general post. But he failed to secure a gubernatorial win in 1994 and 1998, and again in 2002 when he lost the Democratic nomination to Blagojevich. In 1995, he lost to Richard M. Daley in a mayoral campaign. ______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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