Stunned, shocked and saddened-those were some of the reactions from fellow Illinois lawmakers representing Austin concerning embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was indicted Tuesday morning on federal corruption charges.
Some offered sympathy to his family while acknowledging that he is innocent until proven guilty. But calls for Blagojevich to resign have grown louder in the two days since the blockbuster accusations first surfaced, including the governor’s alleged attempt to try and sell President-elect Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat for financial or political kickbacks.
“My heart goes out to his family, in particular his wife and daughters, who have to deal with his arrest,” said State Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th district), stressing for people not to rush to judgment. “We can only wait for justice to be served. Regardless of what happens, we only want to see fairness in the process.”
Ford added the indictment does shake Illinoisans back to reality after its month-long “Obama high.”
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th District) said she heard the news about Blagojevich’s arrest shortly after she dropped her son off at school.
“I had just gotten back and was cleaning up when [Channel 7 news anchor] Linda Yu was reporting that the governor had been taken into custody by the FBI. I was stunned.” said Lightford, who also expressed concern for the Blagojevich family.
Lightford worked with the governor on several initiatives, including the state’s minimum wage increase, which was a key issue in Blagojevich’s 2006 re-election campaign. While Lightford said she is disheartened by the news, she is hoping to return to Springfield in January to work with state legislators.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that is the case with the governor. In the meantime, we as lawmakers must refocus our energies on initiatives that will benefit the people of this state,” Lightford said. None of the elected officials interviewed wanted to say on record if they thought Blagojevich should resign or be impeached.
Lawmakers are expected to be called back to Springfield next week for a special session to consider a range of actions, including impeachment proceedings and stripping the governor’s ability to appoint Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Durbin, have called for a special election to fill the senate seat.
Even while under indictment, Blagojevich still has the power to select Obama’s replacement in the U.S. senate. Among those vying for the post is U.S Rep. Danny Davis (7th District), who expressed shock over the allegations.
“I was…saddened, disappointed-I sincerely wanted to cry,” he said. “The reason I wanted to cry was because it undermines the confidence that the people of this state have given to government. I have served my entire career with the intention to change the cynical thinking about government.”
Davis said he fully expects his colleagues in Springfield to draft a bill favoring a special election.
“I think some would consider it a tainted pick if he is allowed to choose,” said Davis, who would not say whether he would prefer an election, or where he stands on continuing his bid for the Senate seat.
“It is all so new. I don’t want to say what I am going to do. I just want to wait and see what happens from here in the investigation,” he said. “The governor is still innocent until proven guilty.”
Arrested at his home Tuesday morning by FBI agents, 52-year-old, Illinois governor faces other charges in addition to allegedly peddling the senate seat for personal and financial gain. According to an FBI affidavit featuring wiretapped conversations of Blagojevich, the governor allegedly sought a high-ranking appointment and hefty salary for his wife, Patti, on an executive board in exchange for political favors.
Gov. Blagojevich was also caught on tape plotting to strong-arm the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers critical of his administration by threatening to holdup state funds assisting in the sale of the Chicago Cubs, which are owned by the Tribune Company. A string of other corruptions charges were made against Blagojevich, who was released on bail Tuesday afternoon.