Outside editorial: The special election

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008

This editorial appeared in the Washington Post:

When the alleged brazen attempts by Illinois Demcratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich to auction off a U.S. Senate seat were revealed last week, the leadership of the state legislature made noises about the need for a special election. Press conferences were held. Bills to make such a vote possible were promised. And then - silence.

It had dawned on the Democrats who control the legislature and their fellow Democrats in Washington that they might actually lose a Senate election. So much for letting the people speak.

A special election isn't cheap. The latest estimate is $30 million. Concern about the expense when the state faces a $2.9 billion deficit is understandable, but Illinois needs two senators who can represent the state on the myriad tough issues facing the new president and Congress. The people of Illinois deserve someone of their choosing, free of the taint that would come from being tapped by the governor. Could anger over the Blagojevich scandal turn the blue seat red in a special election? We don't know. But it's an odd game if you let people play only when you know you're going to win.

The Illinois General Assembly is moving with all deliberate speed to impeach Blagojevich for allegedly pushing the envelope too far (even by Chicago standards). Fine; but that won't be a quick process, either. Lawmakers should be simultaneously pushing to approve a law to sanction a special election.

We aren't fans of gubernatorial appointments to the Senate. They are undemocratic and subject to abuse. Blagojevich's alleged actions show in vivid detail the danger of putting that power in the hands of one person. The decision on who should represent the people of Illinois should rest in their hands.

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