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Vacant Senate Seat Race Heating Up

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Dec 12, 2008 9:40PM

2008_12_12_blagoabe.jpgMan, this thing is a mess and it's pretty tough to sort out, logistically and legally. Here's what we know: Blagojevich still has the power to appoint the seat - as he is still governor - and there may not be much legal ground for opposition, at least from the U.S. Senate. The Trib points out:

In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled the House of Representatives could not refuse to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, a New York Democrat who was accused of putting his wife on the payroll and misusing travel funds to vacation in the Caribbean. Despite those charges, he was reelected by his constituents in Harlem.

"The Constitution does not vest in the Congress a discretionary power to deny membership by majority vote," wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren. Congress may "judge only the qualifications set forth in the Constitution," he said.

The qualifications are minimal. A senator must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen and "an inhabitant" of the state.

All of this hasn't kept Democrats from the U.S. Senate from sending Blagojevich a letter warning him not to appoint a senator in the wake of his arrest. Right, because Blago has shown he's prone to rationally discussing these matters. The Trib also describes the seemingly never-ending cycle we could enter:
If Blagojevich were to select someone to fill the Illinois Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, the senators could send the matter to the Rules Committee to judge the candidate's qualifications.

And the appointee, if rejected by the Senate, could go to court and challenge the decision as unconstitutional.

Of course, Blagojevich may never get the chance to appoint a Senator if he resigns, is impeached, or otherwise removed from office. So that means either the new Governor - who would be Pat Quinn - would appoint the Senator or a costly special election could be called to select the senator.

So, one way or another, we'll eventually have a new senator. Who will it be? Luis Gutierrez and Valerie Jarrett were both previously considered, but took themselves out of the running, perhaps sensing the impending shitstorm.

As for who's still in, Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s chances of landing that coveted U.S. Senate seat are now severely hindered, so who has the best chance to land it? Rep. Danny Davis is still interested and at Wednesday night's Midwest Academy Awards in Washington D.C., Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Dem. - 9th) announced her intentions on running for the seat if a special election is called. Tammy Duckworth has had her name floated around and Louanner Peters has been identified as "Senate Candidate 4" in the federal complaint.

2008_12_12_madigan2.jpgBut the latest speculation is that Attorney General Lisa Madigan, fresh from her move to remove Blagojevich from office, is now the new front-runner among state Democrat voters, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey. Last week, Jackson led all candidates at 36 percent; this week, Madigan received 32 percent while Jackson dropped to 18 percent. Not for nothing, the Reader's Mike Dumke - who correctly guessed Jackson and Peters - suggested a few days ago Madigan was "Senate Candidate 2" in the complaint.

Blago Photo AP/Seth Perlman, Madigan Photo via video still from Chicago Tribune