A Rising Star Shooting Towards Burris

A Chicago Dem emerges from the muck

Who is Susana Mendoza, the smart and articulate Chicago Democrat whose finely evocative outrage over Rod Blagojevich and, now, Roland Burris has made her a media star in the last few days and weeks?

Mendoza was born in Chicago, lived in Bolingbrook as a teenager, and attended college in Missouri, according to her Wikipedia entry.

When she took office at the age of 28 in 2001, she became the youngest state legislator in Illinois history. She represents the 1st District, which encompasses the Near Southwest Side.

Mendoza has stood out for her crisp, on-target quotes during the Blago and Burris affairs.

After the governor accused her and other state legislators of double-dipping by holding jobs with the City of Chicago as well as their posts in the General Assembly, Mendoza said: “It is an obvious example that the governor is a pathological liar. If he honestly believes, in his lunacy, that 10 people from the City of Chicago controlled the fate of that doomed capital bill, he needs medical attention.”

Still, Mendoza was considered a Blagojevich ally until then. She became one of his biggest critics after that.

"If [Blagojevich] does not want to resign and do the right thing, it`s our job to have him resign the hard way," she said after the House formed its impeachment committee, on which she sat as an alternate.

She's also been merciless about Burris. Among her greatest hits:

- "I was there, and I feel that I was lied to."

- "I heard every word that came out of the senator's mouth . . . he was asked a very specific question . . . it shouldn't have taken some special legalese to answer the question."

- "He has not been forthright and honest from the get-go. He's on version number four. What's tomorrow's story going to be, that he suddenly remembered he did write a check?"

- "This could all be completely avoided if Senator Burris does the right thing and resigns . . . he's a former attorney general of the state of Illinois, I can't emphasize that enough . . . we tell our children they have to be honest, and that doesn't mean half-truths or quarter-truths."

Mendoza has had a curiuos relationship with the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization. One blot on her record is the help she received from the corrupt HDO in getting elected in the first place. She later broke with HDO, going so far as to back two Republican legislative candidates, according to Rich Miller.

Her record is sure to get more scrutiny as her profile rises, but if legislator has emerged with an up arrow through the Blago-Burris madness, it's Mendoza.

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