Growing chorus calls for Burris to resign

GOP calls for special election; Burris ignores questions
February 19, 2009 8:46:05 PM PST
The chorus, including Ill. Comptroller Dan Hynes, is growing for Senator Roland Burris to resign.Senator Roland Burris issued a statement on Thursday night, calling for an end to what he says has been "a rush to judgment."

On Thursday night, the chorus is growing for Senator Roland Burris to resign including Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.

"The reason I believe he should resign is because he's a huge distraction," said Dan Hynes, Ill. comptroller.

Hynes ran for the Senate in 2004 and lost in the primary to Barack Obama.

"He needs to do the right thing so we can focus on this fiscal and economic crisis and other important issues for the state," said Hynes.

Hynes believes a special election should be held to replace Senator Burris.

In Thursday in Springfield, Republicans made a strong appeal for just that regardless of whether Burris resigns or not.

"This is an opportunity to give people of Illinois an opportunity to be involved they don't trust us and one of the ways we can restore trust," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) House Minority Leader.

Senator Burris released a statement on Thursday night saying, "I call on our leaders to stop the rush to judgment. I have been open and honest in my statements. There is a legal process moving forward with the Sangamon County state's attorney and the matter is before the senate ethics committee. Those bodies will examine the fact and report out their conclusions. I will cooperate with them fully.

On Thursday night, the state's attorney general supports a special election but she is urging patience.

"I believe the process will play out and a decision will be made at that time," said Lisa Madigan, Ill. Attorney General.

Burris is the only African American in the U.S. Senate. At the Chicago Urban League luncheon, some African American leaders remained supportive of Burris.

Some politicians are calling for Senator Burris to finish out his term and not run again. Govenor Pat Quinn is planning a news conference on Friday at 11 a.m. He is expected to discuss the issue of a special election for future U.S. Senate vacancies.

Burris stays out the public eye

Sen. Roland Burris was out of the public eye on Thursday as he considered his next move. He's the subject of two investigations into how he obtained his Senate seat.

Also on Thursday Illinois Republican leaders once again called for a special election even if Senator Burris doesn't resign.

And while Senator Burris deals with multiple investigations, potential candidates to replace him are considering their options.

At the Urban League's lunch on Thursday afternoon, Executive Director Cheryle Jackson would not talk about her interest in Roland Burris' U.S. Senate seat.

"I'm just here today in my Chicago Urban League capacity," said Cheryle Jackson, Chicago Urban League director.

On Wednesday, the 44-year-old Jackson who was Rod Blagojevich's press secretary during his first term told Crain's Chicago Business, "I am considering a race." Without endorsing Jackson, those at lunch praised the potential candidate.

"She's very energetic. Very creative. She's young. She's got a lot of public appeal," said Pat Ryan, businessman.

"She's a fine young lady and everything. I guess it would be a wide open field in the year 2010," said Emil Jones, former Illinois Senate president.

Senator Burris, who we last saw in public on Wednesday leaving the City Club, lunch refuses future news media interviews on events leading to his appointment by ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Meanwhile, the state's other U.S. Senator Dick Durbin was quoted in Turkey on Thursday saying,"I'm tired of this Blagojevich burlesque that's been going on for so long. The people of our state should be spared this." Traveling with Durbin on the overseas trip is Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, reported to be another possible U.S. Senate candidate in 2010.

"Isn't that interesting? That you would have Dick Durbin with her just at time he decides to comment about Roland Burris? And it is not by accident," said Delmarie Cobb, political consultant.

In Springfield, Republicans renewed their call for the legislature to pass a bill calling for a special election to fill Burris' Senate seat. They aren't worried about likely court challenges to such a law.

"We're trying to take steps to restore the tired image of our state," said State Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

At Chicago City Hall, Mayor Daley did his best to stay out of the Burris controversy.

"If there's a cloud, I guess you have to say what cloud it is. Is it heavy or a light cloud? It's up to him," said Daley.

And on the demands that the junior senator resign Congressman Danny Davis said its not in Burris' character to quit.

"I don't think that he's fatally damaged and i don't think he will give up because he's not that kind of individual," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, (D).

"If I had done the things I've been accused of, I would be too embarrassed to stand up here in front of you because you all are my friends," Burris said Wednesday at a City Club of Chicago luncheon, adding that during his decades of public service there was "never a hint of a scandal."

GOP calls for special election

Illinois Republicans are also launching a petition drive in all 102 Illinois counties to support special elections as they planned to introduce their legislation Thursday in Springfield.

Republican spokesman Lance Trover says the state needs to change its rules to prevent Illinois from the kind of embarrassment it's felt during the last two months.

Republicans say top Democrats have flip-flopped on holding special elections. The GOP hopes Democratic leaders will change their minds and support the legislation.

A preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry was also getting under way, as Illinois lawmakers ask local prosecutors to look into perjury charges, and calls for Burris' resignation grow, even from his own party.

"Our state and its citizens deserve the whole truth, not bits and pieces only when it is convenient," Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., said Wednesday in calling on Burris to step down.

Illinoisans who thought they had put one big mess behind them with Blagojevich's ouster are getting that queasy, here-we-go-again feeling.

"I think he should resign," Jan Treptow, 58, a registered nurse in Chicago said Wednesday. "He seems to have lied. We've got enough dishonesty."

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges he plotted to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for campaign cash or a plum job for himself. Before he was impeached and removed from office, he defied lawmakers by appointing Burris to the Senate.

Last weekend, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for fundraising help. This week, Burris admitted trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for Blagojevich.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Burris contacted Blagojevich's chief of staff four times in November, according to phone logs released by the governor's office. That was more than he disclosed in his most recent affidavit.

Burris placed one of the calls to John Harris on Nov. 10, according to the logs. Earlier this week, the senator told reporters in Peoria that he also talked to Robert Blagojevich on "about Nov. 10."

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the U.S. Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said Wednesday that "the accuracy and completeness" of Burris' testimony and affidavits "have been called into serious question."

"Every day there are more and more revelations about contacts with Blagojevich advisers, efforts at fundraising and omissions from his list of lobbying clients. This was not the full disclosure under oath that we asked for," Durbin said in a statement.

The Chicago Sun-Times added its name Thursday to the list of newspapers advocating Burris' resignation, and called on Durbin to nudge him out "in plain and deliberate language." The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The State Journal-Register in Springfield and the Peoria Journal Star also have said Burris should quit. The New York Times said Thursday he "should consider" resigning.

On Wednesday, Republicans launched myriad complaints on the Illinois House floor about Democrats, Burris, and Illinois' shady reputation.

"If he has a shred of decency, he will resign the seat and a special election will take place," said state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville. "That's the only way this cesspool can be cleaned up."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he's not calling for Burris to resign even though the account of how he was appointed "seems to be changing day by day."

"It's not for me to say that he lied," Reid said Wednesday. "I don't know if he lied or didn't. Right now, he's a member of the Senate."

The criticism also came from Blagojevich's successor. "It was a gigantic mistake for Roland Burris to even accept an appointment from Rod Blagojevich," said Gov. Pat Quinn. "He's having to deal with that now."

Some Illinoisans said Burris should be allowed to serve until the next election.

"If you don't like him, throw him out at the election," said 77-year-old retiree John Fussell, as he waited for a burger at the Korner Kafe in the St. Louis suburb of Cahokia. "I think everyone should just shut the hell up and let it run. How much damage can he do in less than two years?"

But Gail Doherty, manager of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, said: "He's a liar, him and Blagojevich. I think they were in cahoots. He should resign."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.