Tomorrow's Chicago Sun-Times will carry this teaser from Lt Governor Pat Quinn's people. Columnist Michael Sneed has been told that Quinn might appoint real estate executive Christopher Kennedy to fill President-elect Obama’s senate seat. Kennedy, a Kenilworth, IL resident, is president of Chicago's Merchandise Mart and a son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
You might remember Sneed as the Chicago columnist used by Blago to juice the pay-to-play competition for the senate appointment. Although she may have been used in Blago’s scheme, no one has suggested that there was anything dishonest or improper about Sneed’s actions.
Sneed has also been told that Kennedy would accept the appointment if it is offered to him. Chris Kennedy is well-regarded and well-connected in Chicago. His greatest advantage is that he doesn't bear the taint of being a competitor in Blago’s corrupt selection process.
Lt Gov. Quinn had indicated initially that he favored a special election to replace Obama, but changed his mind earlier this week. Quinn says the state doesn’t have the money to hold a special election, which is true. As the law stands, the authority to make the appointment will reside with Quinn unless the state legislature votes to strip the governor's office of that power. If that happens, legislators would probably schedule a special election in April. Quinn, who until recently had no hope of winning the party's nomination for the 2010 governor’s race, could really use Kennedy family muscle in his bid.
The leading contender for the 2010 nomination is Illinois AG Lisa Madigan. This week, Madigan asked the Illinois Supreme Court to remove Blagojevich, arguing that the governor is incapable of continuing in office. Most observers agree that the court's authority to remove a governor on these grounds was only intended to deal with an officeholder who was physically or mentally incapable of functioning.
The impeachment process was intended to deal with corruption and the votes, both to impeach and convict, are there. But Lisa Madigan's father, senate president and Blagojevich archenemy Michael Madigan, is dragging his feet. Speculation is that Madigan wants his daughter at the center of the action to strengthen her expected bid for the governorship in 2010.
My guess is that, when all is said and done, state legislators will take the senatorial appointment power away from the governor’s office before they vote to impeach. Quinn is unpopular with his fellow Democrats, Mike Madigan wants to nip Quinn's 2010 gubernatorial chances in the bud and the Republicans want a special election because it would give them a shot at replacing Obama with a Republican. And, who knows? Even though the state Republican Party has been badly damaged by ex-Governor Ryan’s conviction on corruption charges, Blago's indictment levels the political playing field a bit.
Mike Madigan is House Speaker, Emil Jones is the Senate President