Voters finally have a say in who succeeds Barack Obama as Illinois' junior senator.
The political selection of Obama's immediate successor - the lame duck Roland Burris - was a travesty. Disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich first tried to sell the seat to the highest bidder, according to charges from federal prosecutors and then, on his way out the impeachment door, he appointed Burris who stubbornly accepted the post and, according to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee, gave "inconsistent" and "misleading" testimony regarding his appointment.
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It's a sorry chapter in Illinois political history and especially for Democrats. So as they go to the polls Feb. 2, we believe it's important to look at who can best put aside the taint of the last few years and move forward.
We believe that person is David Hoffman.
We recognize that Hoffman, 42, has an uphill battle against the better known and funded one-term state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. And we also acknowledge that Giannoulias, 33, makes a strong case for the nomination. His banking and financial background, especially, are important attributes when dealing with questions concerning our economy and how best to turn it around.
However, Hoffman has a unique background with even more experience dealing with federal issues. He was a foreign policy legislative assistant to the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the early 1990s. He also was a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
We like that Hoffman refers to himself as a pro-growth Democrat who understands that the ballooning deficit needs to be reduced by rooting out wasteful and inefficient spending and prioritizing economic growth.
Hoffman has shown an independent streak that we find refreshing even if we don't always agree with him. He does not support the Obama administration's plan to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. He also believes in more educational reforms than he says the Democratic Party has been willing to support in the past.
But Hoffman's chief attribute is his background in rooting out corruption and promoting ethics. He earned a strong reputation as an independent voice serving as the city inspector general in Chicago and in his role as a member of the Illinois Reform Commission that recommended sweeping changes in Illinois politics and government in the wake of the Blagojevich scandals. He also worked for many years as a federal prosecutor.
While Giannoulias has strong backing from the elected Democrats in the state (however, his friend Barack Obama has not endorsed anyone in the race) - Hoffman has earned two endorsements worth noting. Former Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas and former congressman, judge and White House counsel Abner Mikva - two men we respect and have backed in the past - both tout Hoffman for his independence and reformist background.
Also running are Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, attorney Jacob Meister and perennial candidate Robert Marshall.