How will Obama seat be filled?

Dec. 9, 2008 at 5:21 PM
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CHICAGO, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Illinois legislative leaders Tuesday said they would convene in emergency session to deal with the fallout from the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones said they would push for legislation for a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The Hill reported Madigan planned to convene the state House as early as Monday. There was no immediate word on when the state Senate would convene.

Blagojevich was charged Tuesday with allegedly trying to leverage an appointment to the U.S. Senate, seeking campaign contributions and other benefits.

"The faith of the citizens of Illinois has once again been shaken," Jones told the Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Constitution directs the governor to appoint someone to the seat if it becomes vacant mid-term. The appointee serves until the next general election when a special election can be scheduled.

During a news conference to announce the charges, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said there was no indication Obama was aware or had been consulted about Blagojevich's alleged actions.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also called for a special election, saying "if the allegations in the criminal complaint against Governor Blagojevich are proven true, he has clearly abused the public trust."

"The General Assembly should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this governor could produce a credible replacement," Durbin said.

State Republican party leader Andrew McKenna called for Blagojevich's resignation or impeachment in an interview on WLS-TV, Chicago.

"The governor ought to step out of this. There is no confidence in this governor," McKenna said.

Should Blagojevich be impeached or leave office voluntarily, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who began his political career as former Gov. Dan Walker's personnel chief, would assume office. Until then, Blagojevich retains the power to select Obama's successor.

"My understanding is that Blagojevich retains all executive powers, including appointment powers, until he is removed from office either through impeachment or conviction," Tom Rudolph, a constitutional expert at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana, said in an e-mail to United Press International. "The Senate can always refuse to seat a nominee, although this right is rarely exercised."

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