Rush pushes for African American Senate replacement

December 2, 2008 3:44:44 PM PST
Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush is launching a petition drive about the vacant U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. Rush wants Governor Blagojevich to appoint an African American to replace President-Elect Barack Obama on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Rush says the Illinois U.S. Senate seat and the race of the person who will assume it has become a national issue for African Americans. Now that Barack Obama has resigned his seat, there are no blacks in the 100-member U.S. Senate. So the appeal was made again Tuesday for Governor Rod Blagojevich to restore an African American voice.

Congressman Rush\, a cancer survivor uninterested in the Senate seat, targeted the news conference at one potential viewer: Governor Rod Blagojevich, who will appoint someone to fill Obama's U.S. Senate seat.

"In the past, Governor Blagojevich has demonstrated in some respects that he's a friend. We just want him to continue to be friendly," Rush said.

Some elected officials, ministers and activists are demanding that the governor select one of several qualified black candidates so the U.S. Senate will again have at least one African American member.

"We need someone there that's going to represent us and have a voice," said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago.

"We think we ought to replace one with one. And so that is our request," said Jerry Butler, Cook Co. Commissioner.

Among those under consideration by the governor are South Side Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., West Side U.S. Representative Danny Davis and retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. The governor said four weeks ago his selection would not be based solely on race.

Congressman Davis says he's talked to the governor about the appointment and said his qualifications extend far beyond skin color.

"I happen to believe that I am the best possible replacement that he can find," Davis said.

The governor, who has not said whether he'll run for re-election, received overwhelming support from black voters in 2006. And the fact that African American can amount to 35 - 40 percent of the vote in a statewide Democratic primary, some ministers say they would be stunned if Blagojevich appointed anyone other than a black person to replace Obama.

"We just believe that the governor would continue to do the right thing when it comes to our community," said Rev. Walter Turner, New Spiritual Life MB Church.

"I think he would help himself a great deal, I can at least say that much," said Rev. Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church.

Governor Blagojevich has promised to make a decision on Obama's replacement before the end of the year. So the new Illinois senator will have at least a few weeks seniority over the newly-elected members.

Blagojevich has lost at that game to the governor of Delaware, who has already filled the Senate seat vacated by Vice President-Elect Joe Biden. And keep in mind, the governor of New York will make an appointment to fill Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacant seat.

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