Greeted with a standing ovation and shouts of “Run, Roland, Run” before he had a chance to make his announcement, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris made it official Friday that he was opting not to make a run for his appointed Senate seat in 2010.
Greeted with a standing ovation and shouts of “Run, Roland, Run” before he had a chance to make his announcement, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris made it official Friday that he was opting not to make a run for his appointed Senate seat in 2010. While the decision was difficult, it was also easy, he said. “Life is about choices. Make no mistake that I love serving in the United States Senate. I love serving the people of Illinois. But in making this decision, I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of Illinois should always come first,” Burris said to a room of nearly 40 supporters at the South Loop Hotel. The time needed to devote to the constituents is parallel to the time needed to spend bulking his coffers. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice the needs of the people, he said, adding, “political races are far too expensive in this country.” As the 71-year-old former attorney general and state comptroller made his statement, many supporters shouted, “Don’t do it,” while a few shed tears after Burris reiterated he was the only African-American senator. “That’s why we need you to stay,” one supporter shouted. Burris was appointed to the seat in January by Gov. Rod Blagojevich one month after the then-governor was arrested on federal corruption charges for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich was subsequently impeached by the Illinois legislature. The senator has faced intense media and public scrutiny since accepting the appointment and faced possible perjury charges about denying he had discussions with anyone in Blagojevich’s camp about raising money in exchange for the Senate seat.
Prosecutors announced last month that Burris would not face the charges. One supporter, who got choked up during the announcement, said the senator was railroaded and blamed the media for trying to tarnish his 30-year political legacy. “He’s nice and compassionate. He is right for the citizens. The media twisted things around. They’ve done him in a way they necessarily wouldn’t do a person of another race. I think he’s well-qualified and has a clean slate. It’s sad he couldn’t get the finances together and get the support because of the backlash the media has done to his career,” Helen Hennings said as tears streamed down her face. The Rev. Paul Jakes concurred about Burris unblemished legacy. “We certainly applaud him for the great work that he has done. We know he will continue on. Roland still has integrity and demonstrated he’s done a great job. His legacy will continue to live on,” said Jakes. When asked in hindsight if it was worth it for Burris to decide to forego a run for a full six-year term after only serving seven months in the seat, considering the cloud of suspicion that hovered when he accepted the appointment, Jakes said “of course it was” because there wouldn’t have been an African-American in the seat. U. S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) said he understood Burris’ decision and wished him well but added that the likelihood of another African-American senator in that seat is “slim.” “Today’s announcement means that the possibility of the Democrats maintaining a filibuster-proof majority at a time when health care and energy legislation are top priorities is now in jeopardy,” Rush said in a statement. William “Dock” Walls said Burris made a good decision since it appears that he’ll always be tied to the Blagojevich scandal. “As the (Blagojevich) trial drags on, his (Burris) name will always come up. He made the right decision,” Walls said. Blagojevich’s corruption trial is scheduled to start next summer. The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said the senator’s legacy should speak for itself. “Roland Burris is a career public servant. He stepped in to salvage a seat, and he feels that his work has been done. He should be judged for his overall career, and his continuous, credible, transparent public service,” Jackson said in a statement. Burris, who took no questions from reporters, said he would continue to serve his community after his term expires in January 2011 but offered no specifics in what capacity. ______ In photo: FILE – In this Feb. 18, 2009 file photo, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill. speaks at the City Club of Chicago. A Democratic official says Burris will not run for a full Senate term in 2010. The source says Burris has begun informing Democratic officials about his decision. The official spoke anonymously because Burris had yet to announce his decision publicly. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File) Copyright 2009 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.