In the wake of his indictment on federal corruption charges, several leading lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Illinois are calling on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign.
The FBI arrested the Democratic governor early Tuesday, Dec. 9, on charges that included solicitation and bribes. His chief of staff, John Harris, also was taken into custody.
According to the criminal complaint, charges include soliciting payments from potential candidates to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich also is charged with offering political favors to The Chicago Tribune if it would agree to firing certain editors responsible for publishing articles critical of the governor.
Blagojevich was released the same day on $4,500 bail. He returned to work on Wednesday.
Despite the recent developments, the governor still has authority to name the next senator. With that in mind, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat, has called on Blagojevich to “step aside” without making the Senate appointment.
Others in his party have been harsher in their remarks about the governor. State Comptroller Dan Hynes called on Blagojevich to resign.
“This is perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of Illinois government, and a stain that will not be easily removed,” Hynes said in a written statement.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White agreed that the governor should resign, calling it the “honorable thing.”
Failure by Blagojevich to step aside could lead to an effort to impeach him. Concern about the issue dragging on has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the statehouse talking about impeachment hearings in the House.
The top House Republican has also called for Blagojevich to resign. House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he asked the governor to step down in an effort “to restore confidence and trust in Illinois state government.”
The state’s lone active U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, also has commented on the fray. He is calling on state lawmakers to approve legislation with a veto-proof margin that would authorize a special election to determine who will fill the seat vacated by Obama.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor