Governors Should Not Appoint Senatorial Replacement

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[Publisher’s Commentary]

Today’s arrest of Illinois Governor Gov. Rod Blagojevich while coming as a shock to many people exonerates a position I took on Imhotep Gary Byrd’s radio show last weekend.

I discussed a different case on Byrd’s radio;  I said I totally opposed the law that allows a governor to have at his or her sole discretion the powers to appoint a successor to a U.S. Senator who resigns in mid-term. I was referring to the fact that New York State Governor David Paterson is now considering appointing Caroline Kennedy to replace Senator Hillary Roadham Clinton, should be be confirmed as Secretary of State in Obama’s Administration.

I argued that there are more qualified candidates in government that could best represent New York State in the Senate, including the current Congressional representatives as well as New York State legislators. Moreover, I also said on the radio show, I’d rather see an African American appointed by Paterson, since, after the resignation of Obama, there currently is not a single Black Senator.

I said the best solution in these kind of cases was for such appointments to be of short-term duration, perhaps for three months, pending special elections.

Now Governor Blagojevich’s arrest makes my argument even more compelling for these laws to be reconsidered in every state across the Union. The governor is in federal custody reportedly because he had solicited bribes by wielding the power he has to appoint a senator as successor to Obama.

He is alleged to have solicited money as well as a possible position in Obama’s Administration; it’s not clear to whom he made these solicitations. Reportedly the government has secret tape recordings of the govenor’s phone conversations seeking these bribes.

He also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the parent of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. He allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired before such assistance was made. His chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested.
Ironically, Blagojevich, a Democrat, came into office promising change after the corruption conviction of his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, who is now serving time.

This development should come as no shock to anyone; no single governor should have the power to appoint anyone of their choice –including unqualified individuals—to represent a state in the Senate, without any guidelines or criteria.

At the very least, a governor should nominate several competent individuals and then have the state legislature elect one of the nominees to represent the state. At best, the governor’s appoint should be for a period of no more than a few months, after which special elections should follow.

Who knows how many past appointments as senatorial replacements have been influenced by the type of corrupt considerations exposed today with Blagojevich’s arrest. His bad luck was that he was caught in the act. The arrest must convince all that there is need to end this corruption-prone practice. Let the people determine who gets to become senator through an election.

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