Roland Burris' back in spotlight

  • Roland Burris

      Roland Burris Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

By Robert McCoppin
Daily Herald Staff
Published12/30/2008 1:40 PM

Roland Burris has more political lives than the Kennedys. Just when you think you've heard the last from him, he's back seeking public office.

Burris, 71, has 20 years of experience in state government, including three terms as comptroller and one as attorney general, but failed in three tries for governor.


Burris got his start in banking, working from tax accountant to vice president of Continental Illinois National Bank. He became director of the Illinois Department of General Services in 1973, and chief of Operation PUSH in 1977.

In 1978, Burris became the first black elected to statewide office, as Illinois comptroller. He was re-elected twice and wrote the state's checks for 12 years.

He then was elected attorney general in 1990, but ran for governor and lost the primary in 1994 to Dawn Clark Netsch, and lost again in 1998, struggling both times to raise campaign cash.

In 2002, Burris came out of retirement to run for governor a third time. But Democratic committee members backed Blagojevich, and Burris finished third behind Paul Vallas.

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On issues, Burris opposed the death penalty and expansion of O'Hare International Airport, and supported a new airport in Peotone and high-speed rail. He favored abortion rights and gun control, and a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He's a registered lobbyist, with current clients including Comcast and the Illinois Funeral Directors Association. Recent clients include the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers and Ho-Chunk Nation's failed attempt to open a casino in Hoffman Estates.

He attended Southern Illinois University and Howard University School of Law, and has two children.

•The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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