By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn today called on U.S. Sen. Roland Burris to resign and once again threw his support behind a special election to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Quinn said at a Chicago press conference that the mounting controversy over the circumstances of Burris’ appointment has made him unable to be an effective U.S. senator. He said he would consider a resignation from Burris a “heroic” way for the senator to preserve his legacy.
“I would ask my good friend, Sen. Roland Burris, to put the interests of the people of the Land of Lincoln first and foremost, ahead of his own, and step aside and resign from his office,” he said.
Quinn said that he hopes to see the seat vacated and legislation that would allow a special election within a week.
But Burris is still in office and hasn’t stepped down, despite growing pressure for him to do so, including a strong message from Obama’s press secretary earlier today. And negotiations on the idea of a special election still have a way to go. Quinn supports a bill from Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat, that would require a special election if the seat became vacant more than 180 days before the general primary.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who joined a group of Republicans yesterday to call for a special election, said she wants the primary for the proposed special election to be held with the April 7 municipal general election and the special election to take place 30 days after. She said that would save the state money.
Franks said Radogno is jumping ahead in the process and that a date cannot be set as long as Burris is in office. He said that it would be impossible to hold the primary for the special election in conjunction with the April election because there is not enough time. Franks said he wants a timeline to be set that could be used if the seat became vacant. He proposed a bill that would call for a special election within four months of the vacancy.
However, both Franks and Radogno support reimbursing local governments for some of the cost of a special election.
Franks is counting on Republican backing once all the details have been ironed out, but he said he’s not sure if there would be enough support from House Democrats. When a special election was proposed in December after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, Democrats blocked it. But Franks said he thinks that they would be more willing to negotiate now. “At least we’re talking about it, and now it’s much more serious than it was just a few days ago,” he said.