Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Kirk and Giannoulias Are Suddenly Special

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Naming Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias as the nominees for a special election to fill the last two months of Barack Obama’s Senate term won't make Roland Burris happy. But it will be good for Illinois’ influence in the Senate.

    First of all, the winner of the special election will get a two-month jump in seniority on other senators elected in 2010. That could be an advantage in ascending to committee chairmanships years from now.

    Second of all, since they’ll be running in two elections at once, they can raise twice as much money. That means all their maxed-out contributors are going to be getting a phone call, asking for another $2,300. This could especially help Giannoulias, who isn’t taking money from corporate lobbyists or PACs, leaving him more dependent on individual contributions. Kirk has such a big cash advantage on Giannoulias that he could give his extra money to other Republican candidates, building up chits that could make him more influential than most freshman senators.

    Although Burris has promised to run in the special election, it looks as though Kirk and Giannoulias will be the candidates.  U.S. District Judge John Grady is leaning toward only allowing party primary winners on the ballot, he said Thursday.

    That’s not undemocratic, because Kirk and Giannoulias were chosen by the voters first. And, it will save the state millions of dollars in scheduling a primary that would probably attract less than 10 percent of the registered voters.

    In November, the election for the unexpired term could be listed first, followed by the election for the full term. That might confuse some voters who wonder why they’re being asked to vote for the same guys twice. They may vote in the special election and skip the full-term election.

    A special election should have happened last November. But the Court of Appeals took over a year to deliver a decision on a lawsuit to force the election. Now the District Court seems to be close to a solution that will actually benefit the state, while sparing it a huge expense.