Illinois Lawmakers Remove Blagojevich From Office
Friday, January 30, 2009
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Jan. 29 -- The state senators stood up one by one in a hushed chamber on Thursday to call Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) a liar and a hypocrite who put his ego and his pocketbook ahead of the interests of Illinois.
One called him "devious, cynical, crass and corrupt." Another said the evidence of abuse of power was "overwhelming." A third said he was "without a doubt unfit to govern."
Together, they voted 59 to 0 to reject Blagojevich's theatrical last-minute pleas and remove him from office, ending a stormy tenure that left the nation's fifth-largest state paralyzed by its governor's alleged misdeeds and nationally ridiculed for its latest bout of corruption.
"I believe our state must enter rehab," Sen. Randall Hultgren (R) told his colleagues before the vote. "Moral rehabilitation."
Blagojevich's repudiation in a state where he was elected twice to the governorship and three times to Congress could mark a dramatic exit from the national stage, which he commanded briefly but memorably. His next battle is expected to come in federal court in Chicago, where he risks losing his freedom over allegations that he schemed to trade official actions for political contributions and other favors.
Blagojevich, charged with wire fraud and bribery, is free on $4,500 bond.
Before Thursday's speechmaking was over, and a pair of unanimous votes were cast to oust Blagojevich and bar him from Illinois public office for life, the governor had already taken his final flight home to Chicago aboard a state airplane. After he arrived, on a darkening winter afternoon, as his fate was about to be sealed, he went for a jog.
Talking with reporters later, he called the verdict "un-American."
"The fix was in from the beginning," Blagojevich said, insisting that he wants no pity.
"There are tens of thousands of people across America just like me who are losing their jobs, or who have lost their jobs," Blagojevich said. "To the people of Illinois, God bless all of you. I want you to know that I haven't let you down."
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn became the state's 41st governor and said he would move right away into the Italianate red-brick governor's mansion that Blagojevich disdained. Quinn supported Blagojevich during their reelection on the Democratic ticket in 2006, but the men have not spoken since August 2007.
"The rule of law prevailed in Illinois. We are ready to move forward," Quinn said after the vote. "Something I'm going to work on night and day is to ask folks to put aside differences of the past and really focus on the common good. We're going to make this a year of reform in Illinois."