I'm fascinated by the recent turn of events concerning the lawsuit over former (and disgraced) governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment of the hapless Roland Burris to Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, now that we're apparently going to have a special election.
American voters tend to have short memories, but you may recall that when the whole debacle was unfolding, many Democrats supported the call for a special election to fill the vacant senate seat (caused by Obama's president victory) but ended up backing sheepishly away, as Burris shouldered his way into the U.S. Senate whether the Dem powers-that-be liked it or not. You can hardly blame Roland Burris, but you can blame the Democrats for not sticking to their original call for a special election, especially with what we now know of Blagojevich's desperate attempts to gain from his appointment power.
Now that a federal judge has ruled we're going to have a special election, the timing of all of this has the potential to really throw a spanner into the works of the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. The fact that time has simply run out, and any special election could actually be held on the same day as the general election, has the potential to confuse and frustrate voters, as well as affect the outcome of the general election.
The Tribune this morning cites Congressman Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee, as stating that if a special election is held, he will run for the seat. If he won the special election, and also won the general, that would give him a leg up in seniority in the Senate.
Alexi Giannoulias, on the other hand, is being a bit more cagey about his plans, probably because sitting Senator Roland Burris is now apparently having a bit of remorse about not running for a full term (as well as not a little wounded pride) and has declared that if a special election is held, he's running in it.
There appears to be some talk of having 'party leaders' pick the nominees for the special, to avoid a costly primary. There is little doubt that the GOP would pick Kirk; despite the constant undercurrent of rumbling from the party's far-right on ideological differences, and Kirk's recent flap over his military record embellishments, Pat Brady and the rest of the party leaders are solidly behind Kirk.
So, what would happen on the Dem side? I would expect that there would be some behind-the-scenes efforts to get Roland Burris to back off and allow Alexi Giannoulis to run, so that the general election nominees would be the same on both teams. But Burris may well resist that pressure, and if so, Giannoulias will have to do some fast talking to save face, if at the end of the day, he publicly seeks the nomination but he's not the Dem nominee in the special. Having two different candidates for U.S. Senate at the same time (if, in fact, the special election also takes place on November 2, at the same time as the general election, as some have speculated) would be disastrous for the Dems. Not to mention the fact that this whole debacle will simply remind Illinois voters about why we're in this mess to begin with (thanks, Governor Blagojevich).
Given how resistant Burris was last time to doing the will of the Dem leadership, I don't see him backing down this time. What could they possibly offer him? Is there any more room on his tombstone anyway?
Stay tuned, folks, this has the potential to be a game-changer in the U.S. Senate race. Although maybe I should take that back, as I think Mark Kirk will win no matter what, but I see the special election flap working heavily in favor of the Republicans.