Black Caucus looking at downstate senator to fill Senate presidency

Downstate senator James Clayborne Jr. (D-57th) won the vote of confidence from the state’s Black Caucus to fill retiring Senate President Emil Jones’ post in January, the Defender learned. The nine-member caucus met about two weeks ago and cho

Downstate senator James Clayborne Jr. (D-57th) won the vote of confidence from the state’s Black Caucus to fill retiring Senate President Emil Jones’ post in January, the Defender learned.

The nine-member caucus met about two weeks ago and chose Clayborne over state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D- 5th) as their top tier candidate for the senate president post, said the caucus’s chair, state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13th).

“He’s in a unique position to put it all together. He’s from downstate, and he can attract support from the downstate caucus. He is the vest viable candidate that would look after the disadvantaged (urban and rural) communities,” Raoul told the Defender last week about the senator from East St. Louis, Ill.

Clayborne, an assistant majority leader, is one of three African American state senators, along with Hendon and Donne Trotter (D-17th), interested in filling the Senate presidency.

Seven of the nine caucus members chose Clayborne.

Jones, a 35-year legislative veteran, announced in August his plans to retire at the end of his term, which is in January. His son, Emil Jones III, will succeed him as senator of the 14th District.

Clayborne, a senator since 1995, said he’s been “positioning” himself for the opportunity and likened himself to Jones.

“I’ve taken on some hard issues that showed leadership. I was one of the main negotiators on the billion-dollar bailout on the utility issue last year. The biggest issue is to be able to look at the needs of the entire state and build coalitions within the caucuses to make sure we are addressing all the members needs and not just Chicago or the suburbs but the entire state. If you look at it historically how Emil became the leader, it was because he was able to garner the support of the Black Caucus as well as the downstate caucus. Those are the same allies I have,” Clayborne said.

Hendon, also an assistant majority leader, did not return the Defender’s calls seeking comment by press time.

Trotter said he’s the caucus’ second tier candidate. If Clayborne can’t get the 30 votes needed outside the Black Caucus to officially vie for the president seat, Trotter’s name will be put in as a substitute after voting begins next month, Trotter said. “Right now James is going into this fray with seven votes. He said he also has the five votes from the downstate caucus. That’s 12 so far,” Trotter said, adding that Clayborne is a “very astute, knowledgeable person of the process and the needs of the state.”

Trotter said the vote from the Black Caucus doesn’t have as much punch now as it did when Jones was voted as the senate president.

At that time, there were only three caucuses and 27 Democrats in the Senate. The Black Caucus represented a third of the members. Now, there are 37 Democrats and five caucuses.

“Put nine into that, and that’s about 25 percent. Our weight in vote doesn’t have much power now,” Trotter added.

Other Democratic senators in the running for Jones’ leadership role are Sens. John Cullerton (D-6th), Jeff Schoenberg (D-9th) and Terry Link (D-30th).

The state Senate will meet during the veto session next month for what may be several rounds of voting. The official vote is expected to take place in January.

Kathy Chaney can be reached at kchaney@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Comments

From the Web