While we wait for a jury to tell us whether Rod Blagojevich is guilty of trying to fence a U.S. Senate seat as though it were a hot plasma screen TV, let’s entertain a more interesting question: what if Blagojevich had never been arrested?
Illinois’s political lineup, and its political future, might look very different. Mark Kirk might not be a senator, and Pat Quinn definitely wouldn’t be governor.
First, we have to figure out whom Blagojevich would have appointed to the Senate. Roland Burris only got the job because he was the only politician washed up/desperate enough to accept an appointment from an accused felon.
Blagojevich testified that he was trying to work out a deal to appoint Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate. Madigan, who has two young children, said she didn’t want to go to Washington, but this was after Blagojevich was arrested. It’s not easy to refuse a U.S. Senate seat. They’re scarcer than NBA roster spots, and the job lasts longer. If Madigan had said yes, she would have been elected to a full term in 2010. If the callow Alexi Giannoulias could get 46 percent of the vote against Kirk, Lisa Madigan could have gotten 50 percent.
On the tapes, Blagojevich sounded desperate to escape the governorship, so we have to assume he wouldn’t have run again in 2010. Even if he’d wanted to run, his inability to get along with the legislature would have made him unelectable.
Seeing that he had no support, Blagojevich would have retired. Who would the Democrats have nominated? Not Pat Quinn. Quinn failed at bids for Secretary of State, U.S. Senate and Governor before finally catching on as Lieutenant Governor. He could never raise enough money to win a big office. Because he didn’t get along with Blagojevich, he didn’t have a high profile. Even with the advantage of incumbency, he barely beat Dan Hynes.
Suppose Hynes won the nomination to succeed Blagojevich. You have to assume he would have beaten Bill Brady, because Brady’s Tea Partying was going to cost him the governorship, no matter who he ran against. If Brady could lose to Pat Quinn, he could lose to anyone.
Would Hynes have pushed a 2-point income tax as ardently as Quinn? Probably not. Quinn knows he’s serving his last term in political office. The 41-year-old Hynes would have been thinking about a long political future.
The Democrats could have had both Senate seats, and they wouldn’t have had a tax increase hanging around their necks. Maybe they’re wishing Patrick Fitzgerald had never eavesdropped on the ex-governor’s phone calls.
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