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November 25, 2008

Illinois governor wants long-term Obama replacement

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) is looking to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat with a successor who wants to remain in the Senate for the long haul.

That fact was revealed by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who interviewed with the governor today. Gutierrez said that Blagojevich was interested in tapping him for the vacancy, but he turned him down because the governor was looking for someone who would be running for a full term in 2010.

"Governor Blagojevich shared with me today that he was very interested in me as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, but that his preference is to appoint someone who will run for a full term in 2010,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “I am honored and gratified to be considered so seriously for this important position.”

Blagojevich’s admission rules out one leading candidate for the seat: state Senate President Emil Jones. Jones was one of Obama’s mentors in the state Senate, and had expressed interest in the appointment. But like Gutierrez, he has no interest in serving beyond 2010.

High-level Democratic leaders, led by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, have touted Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs as a pilot serving in the Iraq war. After unsuccessfully running for Congress, she now serves in Blagojevich’s Cabinet as head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

But some Democrats have urged Blagojevich to select an African-American candidate to take Obama’s place to ensure there is at least one African-American represented in the Senate. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has expressed strong interest in the opening, and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is also considered a possibility.