Being Illinois State Treasurer just isn't going to be enough for Alexi Giannoulias, politically speaking. And Sunday, he made it official. He wants the U.S. senate seat that belonged to his basketball buddy, President Barack Obama.
"I am very proud to fomally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate seat once held by my friend, my mentor and my inspiration, President Barack Obama, " Giannoulias told a crowd of supporters at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. "We cannot go backward. We must embrace change and move forward."
It seems he shares the fundraising abilities of his mentor as well. By forming an exploratory committee in March, he's been able to raise more than $1.8 million for the race, according to campaign finance reports.
Sunday's announcement gives Giannoulias, 33, the distinction of being the first Democrat to enter the race for the scandal-plagued seat at the center of former Governor Rod Blagojevich's federal corruption investigation. Sen. Roland Burris, whose appointment by Blagojevich amid charges he tried to sell President Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder, has decided not to run in 2010.
Last week, North Shore Republican Congressman Mark Kirk announced his candidacy with clear plans to take political advantage of the Blagojevich scandal.
Giannoulias wasted no time Sunday in going on the reform attack, saying the Congressman has accepted special interest money and voted in their interests.
"That's not 'independence.' That's the same old Washington way. That's the same tired politics that voters rejected in 2008 and that's the same tired politics that we will defeat in 2010," Giannoulias said.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a statement Sunday, jumping on Giannoulias almost as quickly.
"The last thing the voters of Illinois need is someone with the record and personal baggage of Alexi Giannoulias who has the gall to look voters in the eye and claim to be the candidate of reform," NRSC spokesman Amber Wilkerson said in a statement. "Next November, the people of Illinois will have the opportunity to reject the corruption of the past and embrace a true reformer in Congressman Mark Kirk."