Illinois: Emanuel Replacement to Be Chosen on April 7

Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:53pm

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) announced Monday that he has set April 7 as the date for the special election to fill former Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s (D) 5th district seat. But the real action should be in the Democratic primary a month earlier.

Emanuel resigned his seat on Jan. 2 to become President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Blagojevich represented the north Chicagoland seat before Emanuel, who was re-elected to his fourth term on Election Day. Even with scandal-ridden Blagojevich still in office, the district is expected to stay in Democratic column.

Blagojevich was arrested last month on federal corruption charges, including allegedly pawning off Obama’s Senate seat. Despite the controversy surrounding the governor, Blagojevich named former state Attorney General Roland Burris (D) to succeed Obama — despite warnings from Democrats that any appointment made by Blagojevich would be considered tainted by corruption and rejected by the Senate.

The 5th district seat is also close to the Blagojevich controversy: The special election was referenced in the federal complaint on Blagojevich, who allegedly wanted to speak with Emanuel about the district. Also according to the affidavit, Blagojevich was looking into his legal powers to see whether could he appoint an interim Member to the seat.

In a statement from his office, Blagojevich designated a special primary election for March 3.

“I am pleased to set these election dates so that the people of the Fifth Congressional District can have a representative in Congress as quickly as possible,” Blagojevich said in a statement. “With our nation in a recession, we need to ensure that Illinois’ voice is being represented in Washington D.C. to get our economy back on track.”

Among the likely Democratic contenders for the seat: state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz; state Rep. John Fritchey; former state Rep. Nancy Kaszak, who lost primaries to Emanuel and Blagojevich; Chicago Alderman Pat O’Connor; and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley.

The field could shrink if Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) and other Cook County Democratic leaders decide to rally around a single candidate, but whether they will remained unclear at press time Monday.