Victors leave empty seats in Senate

WASHINGTON -- The victory of Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the presidential race leaves two open Senate seats to be filled by the Illinois and Delaware governors.

The governors, both Democrats, will appoint a senator to serve until 2010, when Obama's Senate term expires and a special election will be held for the remaining four years of Biden's term. Biden simultaneously won election as vice president and re-election as Delaware's senior senator Tuesday.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in a statement Wednesday that he wouldn't rush the search for a successor to Obama and that he wanted a replacement who "will understand and fight for the needs of average Illinoisans."

Possible replacements include Democratic Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Jan Schakowsky, says Christopher Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Mooney says other possibilities include state Attorney General Lisa Madigan; state Comptroller Dan Hynes, who lost to Obama in a Democratic primary for Senate in 2004; and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a friend of Obama's who played basketball with him on Election Day.

The wild card in the process is Blagojevich, who has record-low approval ratings amid corruption investigations of his administration, Mooney said.

"It seems like most of what he's doing is crazy. It's either inscrutably wise or just stupid," Mooney said. "That's why the whole pick is wide open."

In Delaware, it remained unclear Wednesday whether Gov. Ruth Ann Minner or her successor, Jack Markell, would name Biden's replacement. Minner will do so if Biden resigns before his inauguration Jan. 20; otherwise, Markell, who won Tuesday's gubernatorial election, will get to pick.

Biden gave no indication of his intentions Wednesday, saying in a statement he would return to Delaware and consult with friends and supporters.

Minner "has not been talking about this," spokeswoman Kate Bailey said.

Biden's replacement could be a two-year caretaker, says University of Delaware political scientist Joseph Pika. That would allow Biden's son Beau to run for election to the remainder of the term in 2010. Beau Biden, Delaware's attorney general, is preparing for a nine-month deployment to Iraq with his National Guard unit.