Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Roland Burris, Kicking and Screaming

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The end of Roland Burris’s Senate term will also be the end of his political career.

    So, it’s no wonder Burris is trying to wring every last day out of his life on Capitol Hill by appealing a decision that will keep him off the ballot for a special election to complete Barack Obama’s Senate term.

    Burris wants to overturn U.S. District Court Judge John Grady’s decision to skip a primary and place Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias on the special election ballot. Burris’s lawyer, Timothy Wright, says Illinois will need a seasoned hand if the Senate goes into special session this fall.

    “He’s not concerned about serving or not serving two months,” Wright told Politico. “If this is going to be a critical time to vote, then you need somebody who’s been there.”

    That’s a silly argument. But this special election is silly -- and unfair to Burris. Senator Burris is only being forced to leave early because he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich.

    Colorado and Florida are both facing a Senate election similar to Illinois’s. After Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar was named Interior Secretary, Michael Bennet was appointed to fill the final two years of his term. Bennet is now running for a full six-year term. But Colorado is holding only one Senate election in November, because nobody sued to roust Bennet from his seat two months early.

    In Florida, Sen. Mel Martinez was elected to the Senate in 2004, but quit early after realizing he could make more money as a lobbyist. His replacement, George LeMieux, will serve until the term ends in January.

    But here in Illinois, there’s always been a feeling that Burris’s appointment was not entirely on the level. Burris was named to the Senate by a duly elected governor who had every right to make that decision. But Blagojevich was under investigation for allegedly trying to sell the seat, so his action was seen as illegitimate, at least in spirit.

    Burris may not be ready to quit because he’s finally getting the hang of the Senate. This week, he brought us home some bacon -- $16 million for computers in libraries and broadband training courses in remote Chicago neighborhoods. He may not get two full years in the Senate, but at least now he has something to show for his time there.