As we told you about yesterday, the specter of a special election for U.S. Senate to be held close to or congruent with the November general election now seems a reality, and after a hearing before a federal judge yesterday, the details are shaping up, though not yet finalized. It's possible the Judge will make a final decision on this Thursday (although perhaps that could be appealed and further delay things - who knows?).
In any case, based on District Judge Grady's decision yesterday, it appears that the State Central Committees for the Democratic, Republican and Green parties will choose the candidates for the special election, bypassing a primary. This may throw some confusion into the mix as to whether candidates will suddenly find their maximum fundraising contribution levels for individual donations effectively doubled, since they could theoretically raise money for two essentially identical elections at once. However, there now appears to be doubt as to whether that would be the result if, in fact, party bosses pick their candidate and there is no actual primary election.
In any event, as far as I can tell from the news reports, it seems that Senator Roland Burris' attorney was at the hearing yesterday, and made every indication that Burris wanted to be considered for the special election nomination from the Dems:
Under the plan, interim Senator Roland Burris could make an appeal to the Democratic committee to run in that special election. He has indicated he wants to but he gets no automatic ballot position. His lawyer says that's not good because he says Burris is the best candidate for that 60-day term.
"You have someone who is already in the seat, who is already experienced, who already has the staff, who already understands the issues that may or may not be voted on during that period of time. So he is going to serve the interests of the people of the state of Illinois," said Tim Wright, Roland Burris' attorney.
"The party can pick anybody who is otherwise qualified to be a senator to be the nominee in the special election and Mr. Burris, if he really wants to, should present himself," said Marty Oberman, election law attorney. Oberman says Judge Grady is expected to finalize his ruling in the next several days.
Remember the stink that Burris made when the Dem leadership initially refused to seat Burris? Burris, to his credit, outmaneuvered Senator Durbin and everyone else (after a little help by supporters who played the race card, and played it well) and got himself seated after all.
Is there any doubt that Burris would do whatever he felt he needed to do in order to protect his position, if he decides that he really wants to run? That would be awful news for Giannoulias, as voter confusion would be rampant with two different Dem nominees for the same office (though based on Burris' marked lack of fundraising ability, who knows how many voters will even know he's on the ballot), plus Giannoulias would lose any fundraising advantage to Mark Kirk that would be gained by having two elections.
Yes, it's becoming pretty clear that a Burris nomination for the special election (or even a public fight over it on the Dem side), will be a very bad thing for the Dems. Given the tightness of this election, it could swing the difference. And given the stakes, look for for the Dem leadership to do everything they can to avoid that scenario.
But it didn't do them much good last time. Roland Burris, is, after all, still Roland Burris.