Be careful what you ask for: Roland Burris should not resign

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By Juanita Bratcher

Day after day, one politician after the other has urged U.S. Senator Roland Burris to resign from the senate seat he was appointed to by former Governor Rod Blagojevich. It’s not surprising that Republican politicians would ask for his resignation, that’s a coveted seat they would like to have placed in the Republican column. But many of these declarations are coming from politicians (elected officials) within Burris own Democratic Party.  And much of the rhetoric – if not all – appears to be political in nature. It’s unfair that a tainted medal is being placed around Burris’ neck simply because he was appointed by impeached Governor Blagojevich; but what’s fair in politics, anyway? And by asking Burris to resign sends a message to Illinoisans and to the U.S. Senate – whether directly or indirectly – that somehow he is not worthy of the seat, muddies up his name in the process, and probably, will make it impossible for him to win the seat in the 2010 election.

Many Illinoisans have voiced concern over the way Illinois law states that a vacant Senate seat should be filled – the governor appoints a candidate to serve out the remaining term; in this case the Senate vacancy left by President Barack Obama. Burris was chosen according to Illinois’ law.  There was also the fiasco in New York in filling the vacant senate seat left by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, just not as controversial as here in Illinois.
That said, the law in Illinois did not call for a Special Election to fill the vacancy, but rather that the appointment be made by the governor. And faced with a shaky economy and the state billions in deficit, Illinois can ill afford a Special Election that will sap-up, by estimates, upward of $50-million. Burris should remain a U.S. Senator until 2010, and then the voters will decide on whether to keep him in the post or choose someone else.

 But there are whispers going on within the African-American community that are saying “enough already,” and that those politicians asking Burris to resign just might find themselves in the mist of a political storm and end up on the losing end if and when they run for re-election; that Black voters will retaliate at the polls.

That scenario played out in 1983 when blacks decided to oust Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne from office because of her “cavalier attitude” toward the black community, her appointments to the Chicago Housing Authority, and insult after insult even though blacks had played a pivotal role in her successful win over the Powerful Democratic machine.
At a press conference this week, eight members of the City Council Black Caucus expressed that same sentiment, calling the declarations asking for Burris to resign a “feeding frenzy,” and warned there would be a price to pay.

Sixth Ward Alderman Freddrenna Lyle who also serves as the city chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, suggested to “those people who seek to run in the wards of the city of Chicago where there are people of color living that they should tone it down because some of us are taking notes…I can’t go to the residents of my ward and ask them to vote for someone who they feel have disrespected them…”

The chairman of the Black Caucus, Alderman Carrie Austin (34th), said it was time for the Burris bashing to stop. “To just muck up somebody’s 30-plus year record of loyalty to the Democratic Party – for all of them to turn on him – we say it’s time for this to stop. And if it does not, we shall remember this at the next election.”  

Burris has said he won’t resign. And regardless of the circumstances under which he was appointed, he is an excellent choice for the U.S. Senate. He is a man of integrity, ethical, and a no non-sense politician, capable and certainly able to serve and represent the citizenry of Illinois.
But since being appointed to the senate seat by former Governor Blagojevich to serve out the remaining senate term of President Barack Obama, Burris finds himself in the middle of a fiery political storm, a hornet’s nest.

So those calling for his resignation should be careful what they ask for because they may face a political backlash in their re-election efforts from Black voters when they go to the polls in the next election.

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