Dems brace themselves for possible Blago testimony

July 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Illinois Democrats have wished for weeks that this trial would end as soon as possible. If the Blagojevich defense does rest, and the former governor does not testify, party leaders will breathe a sigh of political relief.

State Democratic party boss and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has long dreaded the day that ousted governor Rod Blagojevich might testify in federal court.

"Clearly, it's not a plus for the Democratic Party of Illinois, and the sooner that it ends the better," said Madigan.

The party's statewide candidates -- for governor and the other constitutional offices, as well as the U.S. Senate -- could pay a political price because they belong to the same Democratic party that spawned Blagojevich.

"Mike Madigan was his campaign co-chairman in 2006. Pat Quinn ran as his lieutenant governor so there needs to be some accountability, too," said Pat Brady, Illinois Republican chairman.

But another theory suggests that Illinois Republican candidates also pay a price for a continued political circus at the Dirksen.

"The problem with the trial is not so much an anti-Democratic sentiment, but anti-politics in general," said Sheila Simon, (D) lieutenant governor nominee.

"And that's why one of my concerns is voter turnout; how many people are going to turn out and vote? How many people are going to get engaged in some very important races?" said Alexi Giannoulias, (D) U.S. Senate nominee.

As they brace themselves for what the former governor might say if he does testify, Democratic bosses and candidates are scrambling to distance themselves.

"I stood in opposition to Blagojevich, many times alone," Madigan said.

"I think we know where he and I stand. I was never close to the former governor," said Giannoulias.

Already, other Democrats are trying to discount the effect of what Blagojevich might say before Blagojevich says it.

"I don't think it's going to have any impact on the fall elections. There are many more important things to worry about than whether Rod Blagojevich testifies or what he says," said Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.

Both state party chairmen cautioned against overrating the trial's affect on November 2. They agreed, that nearly two years after Blagojevich's arrest, voters will have more on their minds.

"The No. 1 concern would be the economy. No. 2 would be the fiscal condition of the state of Illinois," said Madigan.

"Certainly, the primary issue is the economy and jobs, but we need to hold those accountable, those who supported Rod Blagojevich through this process, Mike Madigan, Pat Quinn and the rest of the Democrats," Brady said.

Whether Rod Blagojevich testifies in his own defense or not, it appears at this point that the trial will not last anywhere near as long as first expected. Certainly not beyond Labor Day, the traditional beginning of the fall campaign season.

An early verdict would help the Democrats in their effort to put the Blagojevich affair in their rearview mirror, so to speak.

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