Davis Defends Jackson in Illinois Senate Scandal

Posted December 11, 2008 at 2:06pm

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said Thursday he thinks “the world” of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and doesn’t believe he played any role in the federal corruption scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

But that doesn’t mean Davis is any less ambitious about competing against Jackson for the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Both Davis and Jackson have been campaigning for the appointment in recent weeks.

Davis said Jackson has “a lot of personal integrity” and “didn’t need to have a press conference to convey that. I don’t think he’s involved in a scheme to purchase an appointment. … It doesn’t make any sense.”

Jackson held a press conference Wednesday to assert his innocence amid reports that he is “Senate Candidate No. 5” in Blagojevich’s federal arrest document. The document alleges that this candidate discussed giving $500,000 in campaign donations to Blagojevich in exchange for Obama’s Senate seat.

Weighing his role in the House, Davis said he is “pretty excited right now” because he was voted onto the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. However, touting his 29 years in public office, Davis conceded that he still has his sights set on the Senate.

“I’ve got a friend who writes for a community newspaper. I asked, ‘Would you like to write for the New York Times?’” Davis said. “I can’t think of any legislator who would not like to work in the highest legislative body in the nation. … Yeah, I’d like to go.”

Despite scores of members of his own party calling for Blagojevich’s resignation, Davis still thinks it is up to Blagojevich to decide whether to step down. He noted that the Democratic governor hasn’t been proved guilty or even indicted yet.

In the meantime, the Illinois Legislature is poised to move next week to strip Blagojevich of his authority to name Obama’s Senate replacement. Beyond that, the state is likely to hold a special election to fill the Senate spot, Davis said.