A year ago Democrats were riding high with Barack Obama’s election, and it was taken for granted that his successor in his Illinois Senate seat would be a fellow Democrat appointed by then-Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But now it seems Democrats may not be able to hold his seat during the 2010 mid-terms in the fallout from Blagojevich’s alleged effort to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder ? a scandal that has tainted his successor, Sen. Roland Burris, who has declined to run next year.
This has left the Democrats with a void now that the deadline to file or withdraw from the Feb. 2 primary has passed.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Democratic leaders in Washington ? both in Congress and the Obama White House ? have failed to recruit a strong candidate to take on Rep.Mark Kirk, the GOP’s likely nominee.
Kirk has $2.3 million in the bank compared with $340,000 for his nearest competitor, real estate developer Patrick Hughes. The congressman is widely viewed as a moderate, while Hughes hopes to capture conservative support.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan ? daughter of powerful state Democratic Party chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan ? reportedly rebuffed efforts by the White House and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to recruit her as a candidate.
According to a Sept. 2007 New York Post report, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic frontrunner, bankrolled a convicted mobster while he served as vice president and loan officer with a Chicago bank. He also has ties to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko.
Giannoulias’ alleged mob connections made him so radioactive during his 2006 state treasurer bid that Madigan declined to support him. He reportedly won his current job partly due to support from Obama.
As of Sept. 30, federal reports show Giannoulias had $2.4 million in the bank.
He also is the only candidate in either party who has won a statewide election.
His competitors include Cheryle Jackon, a former Blagojevich spokeswoman and head of the Chicago Urban League; former City of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman; and attorney Jacob Meister, who the Sun-Times reports is a factor because he has pledged $1 million of his own money into the race.
Unlike Giannoulias, his competitors have never run for or held public office.
Federal records show Jackson had $317,828 on hand and Hoffman had $836,957, including $500,000 he lent his campaign as of Sept. 30.
Giannoulias reportedly has significant labor support, as well as support from county party chairmen, Greek-Americans and some support from people in southern Illinois.
Several North Shore state lawmakers have endorsed Hoffman’s candidacy due to his good government and ethics messages, while Jackson has secured support from black elected officials and has an endorsement from EMILY’s List, a group that backs pro-choice Democrats.
Meister hopes to capture a gay and Jewish base. Hoffman has garnered support in the North Shore suburbs, among Jews and Chicago wards with a lot of police and firefighters. And Jackson has black and female support.
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