Yesterday was a great day in Illinois. It was a day full of drama, bipartisanship, and new beginnings. For those of you who don't mainline CNN, the Illinois State Senate voted yesterday to remove Governor Rod Blagojevich from office in light of allegations that he abused his power -- holding legislation "hostage" in exchange for large campaign donations and trying to sell the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. It is with great hope that this can close a chapter on this dark time in Illinois politics and that, under the leadership of our new governor, Pat Quinn, the state can begin to rebuild its repuatation and integrity.
Not that Blago didn't go down without a bit of a fight. Initially, he refused to appear at his own trial, claiming that the proceedings were already prejudiced against him and angry that he would not be able to call witnesses in his defense. Instead, Rod took to the airwaves, making appearances on at least 2 dozen different shows -- from Good Morning America to Larry King Live to The View. I'm not sure what Blago thought this would accomplish other than making himself look like more of an idiot than the people of Illinois already know him to be. He has perhaps tainted any future jury pool by turning himself into a media circus. When he did finally appear in front of the Senate yesterday, it was to deliver a roughly 45-minute speech to the Senators to "plead his case." His speech, though, did little to directly address the specific charges against him other than to say that the charges were false. It was a lovely performance, full of Blago's typical dramatic skill, but it was a performance that, like Mike Meyers's performance in The Love Guru, ultimately left his audience feeling sickened and disappointed.
In the end, the Senate unanimously voted to remove him from office and bar him from ever holding office in the state of Illinois again. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was immediately sworn in and begins the Herculean task of not only restoring some semblance of dignity to the office but also trying to clean up the mess that Blags leaves behind -- like the shameful nearly two billion dollar budget deficit, the crumbling infrastructure, and a Congress that has been locked in battle with the governor for nearly seven years. Quinn has a history of being a bit of an outsider, dare I even say a maverick, who has made a lot of enemies in his career, including a chilly relationship with Blags, by being a champion of cleaning up government in our state. He may be just the person Illinois needs right now -- someone who's not afraid to tackle big problems and isn't as mired in the "good old boy politics" when faced with a problem. He seems to be a man of integrity, and it's been quite some time since Illinoisians have been able to say that about our governor.
Quinn's time in office is potentially very short. Illinoisians vote for governor in 2010, and Quinn could face a battle should he choose to run for governor. The people may not have the patience it may take to let Quinn do what needs to be done in Springfield, but I hope that we at least give him a chance before we call out the hounds to run him out of town.