Questions continue following Jones retirement announcement

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Jones in Springfield Tuesday as the senate heads back in session.

Jones said he would not seek re-election to the general assembly when his term expires in January.

As president, Jones left his office headed for the senate floor. He characteristically said little about his less-than-24-hours-old retirement announcement:

"When you retire you're going to be faced with the same questions. Thirty-five years is a long time," he said as he walked away.

The 72-year-old Jones, who served nearly 36 years in the Illinois House as well as senate said Monday he would not stand for re-election in November and would leave office in January. The announcement comes in the midst of a bitter internal power struggle involving Governor Rod Blagojevich and fellow Democrat house speaker Michael Madigan.

Senators worry that Democrats in their chamber could turn on each other as at least half a dozen say they would like to replace Jones as president.

"It's a new era in government, and the people and the media have cried that we need change of leadership, change of direction," said James Deleo, (D) Northwest Side.

"My worst fear is that individuals that have personal ambition will sling mud at each other," said Kwame Raoul, (D) Hyde Park.

Many of his colleagues called Senator James Clayborne of downstate Belleville one of the frontrunners.

"Being a new face at the table with the governor, the speaker and trying to bridge those relationships and get back on track and do what's best for the people of the state of Illinois," said Clayborne.

But North Sider John Cullerton says he's assembling a coalition of supporters that includes downstaters.

"I have support from all over, not just in Chicago. I think it can bring about a different atmosphere down here," Cullerton said.

No one is paying closer attention to this than Blagojevich. Under Jones' leadership, the governor could depend on support from at least one chamber. But with Jones a lame duck, the governor has to wonder, what now?

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