Scandal-Plagued Blagojevich Taps Roland Burris for Barack Obama's Senate Seat

Illinois' first black attorney general may not even be seated in Congress.

December 30, 2008, 1:59 PM

Dec. 30, 2008— -- He may be a relatively obscure politician outside of Illinois, but today, Roland Burris grabbed headlines as scandalized Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced that he will attempt to appoint the attorney to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The 71-year-old served as attorney general of Illinois from 1991 to 1995. He was the state's first black attorney general and treasurer.

"I'd say if there hadn't been a Roland Burris that there would not have been a Carol [Moseley] Braun or a Barack Obama," Burris told The Associated Press in September. "I had to lay the groundwork … to perform in a high statewide office."

But Burris, who will not likely reach the Senate as Democrats have pledged not to seat any Blagojevich pick, has suffered several political setbacks as of late.

Blagojevich's Senate pick lost bids for Chicago mayor in 1995 and Illinois governor in 1993, 1998 and 2002. Burris also lost a bid for the Senate earlier in his career, in 1984.

In 2002, Burris lost the governorship to Blagojevich -- who is under investigation for allegedly trying to sell Obama's Senate seat for personal gain -- and was backed by then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

Burris indicated interest in Obama's Senate seat when the president-elect resigned but, according to the Chicago Tribune, was never seriously considered by the Illinois governor or his peers.

In recent weeks -- despite the scandal surrounding Blagojevich -- Burris reportedly ramped up his efforts, noting that he has never lost to a Republican, despite numerous losses to Democratic opponents.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Illinois Republican Party chairman Andy McKenna blasted Blagojevich and Burris.

"Blagojevich Democrat Roland Burris is emblematic of the old-school, pay-to-play culture that has plagued Illinois for generations and this appointment is another embarrassment for the people of Illinois," McKenna said in the written statement.

"Once again, Blagojevich Democrats have failed the people of Illinois by refusing to strip Rod Blagojevich of his Senate appointment power and blocking a vote of the people."

Burris is currently a senior counsel at a private Chicago law firm.

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