No money or time for an election
It certainly is ironic that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who has built a career by presenting himself as the state's pre-eminent populist, says the citizenry should not have the power this time.
But, in this instance, we agree with him wholeheartedly.
Democrat Quinn Thursday again said he hoped Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich would do the "right thing" and resign immediately - just as we did in this space on Wednesday. If Blagojevich did, Quinn would become the acting governor and, he added, he would act quickly to get someone appointed to the Senate seat last held by President-elect Barack Obama. He believes that is the wiser course of action than waiting for the time and considerable expense of a special election.
At a time when Illinoisans' trust of any and all politicians truly is at a new low, an election would seem, at first blush, to offer the best chance we have to ensure a selection is made free of corruption.
But we do not have the luxury of time nor the funding for an election that could cost $31 million. That price is the equivalent of a capital construction program state elected officials have been unable to agree upon. An election could take months when right now we face unemployment and mortgage foreclosures that are reaching historic highs.
Illinois' legislators are set to convene Monday. Senate President Emil Jones, one of Blagojevich's allies, has said he intends to pursue changing state law to strip the governor of his ability to name the Senate replacement.
Blagojevich should not be allowed to make that pick _ on that just about everyone, except perhaps the sitting governor, agrees. Federal agents, after all, released a sensational affidavit in which they allege wiretappings will show Blagojevich was shopping the seat around seeking the highest price for it like some rabid auctioneer.
But legislators should not waste time trying to change a state law that would then be sent to Blagojevich for approval. Instead, Quinn is right that their time would be better spent preparing for impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Quinn also is right that Illinois deserves a "full voice" in Washington, D.C., in such critical economic times. Even if Blagojevich resigns soon, and even if Quinn makes an appointment after what he promises would be a transparent process, it's likely New York will be ahead of Illinois in picking its replacement for Hillary Clinton, thereby jumping ahead of us in the seniority system that rules the U.S. Senate. It's even possible all the new senators-elect chosen around the country in the November election would have seniority over Illinois' next senator if we proceed with a special election.
Still, we're not ready to give Quinn our full faith and trust in these corrupted times. If he gets the governor's power, he should quickly appoint a blue-ribbon panel with many of the average, nonpolitical people he's championed all his adult life. The panelists should evaluate potential Senate replacements and give him, and all of us, their best recommendation.
Blagojevich needs to step aside now and Quinn needs to give this choice to the people, a small group of them we will have to trust more than we do many elected officials right now.