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Senator Roland Burris reportedly won't run in 2010

The Illinois Democrat, appointed to President Obama's former seat by scandal-ridden then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, knew the 'tide was against him' and decided to focus on serving his term, a source says.

July 10, 2009|John Chase and Rick Pearson

CHICAGO — Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.), who was appointed to President Obama's onetime seat by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, is expected to announce today that he will not seek a full term in 2010, sources close to the lawmaker said.

The decision by Burris, 71, is an acknowledgment that the prospects of raising the millions of dollars needed to mount a statewide campaign were dubious in the face of widespread criticism over how he got the job. Almost two months after his appointment, a Chicago Tribune poll indicated that only 37% of voters wanted Burris to run. As of the spring, he had raised $845 and had more than $111,000 in debt, a campaign filing showed.

Burris was not sure he could handle the grueling schedule of a senator up for election, and knew the political "tide was against him," a source close to the senator said. Burris is expected to finish his term, which expires in January 2011.

"He wants to be a full-time senator for the remainder of the term," said the source, who asked not to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak for Burris. "He's really passionate about that. He won't be running for election. He'll just be the state's senator."

Burris, who is expected to formally make his announcement during a speech to youth groups, did not talk to reporters Thursday evening after he landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The former Illinois attorney general, whose 1978 victory as comptroller made him the first African American official elected statewide, found himself at the center of a political firestorm after Blagojevich appointed him to Obama's seat. The move came three weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges, including allegations that he had attempted to sell the Senate seat.

Blagojevich, who was impeached and ousted from office in the weeks after he picked Burris, has pleaded not guilty. Burris has said that he was unaware of Blagojevich's alleged attempts to profit personally and politically from the seat, and that he was not involved in any pay-to-play activity.

Senate Democrats have a strong interest in maintaining a hold on the seat, part of the party's filibuster-proof majority over Republicans.

Leading national Democrats, including Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, had urged Blagojevich not to fill the vacancy, and initially vowed to block Burris' entry. But they reluctantly accepted his appointment after other Democrats, including Rep. Bobby L. Rush of Illinois, questioned whether the Senate would refuse to seat its lone black member.

Burris repeatedly tried to fend off criticism that the seat was tainted by the allegations against Blagojevich, and he offered a series of changing and sometimes contradictory details about his contacts with top Blagojevich allies that had led up to his appointment.

Burris ultimately acknowledged that he had attempted to raise funds for Blagojevich. His statements, including his testimony before an Illinois House panel that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment, were investigated by the state attorney's office. That prosecutor found that Burris' answers did not rise to the level of perjury.

The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee is continuing to investigate the matter.

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jchase@tribune.com

rap30@aol.com

Tribune reporters Monique Garcia and Mike Dorning in Washington contributed to this report.

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