By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Producer
Nov. 10, 2008 – Now that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been elected, all eyes are turning to the governors of Illinois and Delaware who have the task of appointing someone to fill vacant Senate seats.
There appears to be no shortage of potential candidates in either state, so the governors will have plenty to choose from. Both states appointees will fill the post until 2010 when they will then have to run for the office on their own merit. But what a boost an appointment would give a relative “incumbent.”
Illinois Gov. Ray Blagojevich (D) will have the tough job of selecting Obama’s replacement. During his first post-election news conference last Friday, Obama was asked his thoughts about who his replacement should be. He told reporters, “I think that the criteria that I would have for my successor would be the same criteria that I would have as voter,” he said. “Somebody who is capable, somebody who is passionate about helping working families in Illinois meet their dreams. And I think there will be a lot of good choices out there.”
It will be a tough call. That’s why Obama made in clear he’ll stay out of the selection process and leave it to Blagojevich, reminding reporters, “It is the governor’s decision, not mine.”
Obama has represented Illinois for four years, and names swirling as potential candidates to fill the seat include two African-American lawmakers: state Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a close friend and mentor to Obama in the mid-1990s, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was Obama’s campaign co-chairman, and long time family friend, Valerie Jarrett, an attorney currently co-chair of the president-elect’s transition team and considered to be the frontrunner for the appointment. CNN and MSNB are reporting Jarrett will be the appointee.
Jackson, whose political aspirations are no secret, came to Obama’s defense when the young lawmaker’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, was caught on tape criticizing Obama for “talking down to Black people.”
Others on the list in Illinois include Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois director of veterans affairs, an Iraq war veteran; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
As for Biden’s seat in Delaware, the selection of his replacement might also have a few elements of drama. Biden won twice on the ballot last Tuesday winning the veep spot along with his seventh term in Congress.
It’s not clear if the outgoing or the newly elected governor of Delaware will make the appointment for his seat. But there is certainty the appointee filling the seat until the 2010 mid-term election will both be Democrats.
Her successor Gov.-Elect Jack Markell (D) could add Minner to the list along with several other folks in the running, including Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of the vice-president elect.
But other names have also surfaced, including: Lieutenant Gov. Jack Carney, Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron Steele and Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor.
Blagojevich told reporters last week that he’s looking for a senator who will share the values of Obama and fellow Democrats. “I believe that we should find the best qualified person, whoever he or she may be, wherever he or she may come from,” he said.