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Blagojevich says Sen. Reid sought to influence his Obama replacement pick

January 4, 2009 |  3:06 am

A quick update on the Democrats' molten stew that is the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his controversial appointment of Roland Burris as the state's new senator to fill the vacant seat of President-elect Barack Obama.

One, word leaked that Burris, a former Illinois attorney general and comptroller, at his initiative will meet with Democratic Senate leaders including Majority leader Harry Reid in Washington on Wednesday, the day after the new Congress convenes. Burris has vowed to take his seat. Reid has vowed to block Burris from doing that, with armed guards if necessary.

Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada

Two, Blagojevich sources threw another brushback fastball past Reid, saying that the Senate Democratic leader had called the accused Democratic governor shortly before his arrest on charges of conspiring to sell government business and favors.

According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, Reid attempted to influence the governor's nominee choice by expressing serious reservations over the 2010 electability of three potential Blagojevich picks -- Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Danny Davis and state Senate President Emil Jones.

All three men happen to be black, as is Burris.

Reid is said to have told Blagojevich he had more confidence in the electoral popularity of Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who like Reid is white, or Tammy Duckworth, an Asian American who heads Illinois' Veteran Affairs Department.

A Reid spokesman confirmed the conversation but declined to list the names of those discussed.

Blagojevich is playing a typically hardball brand of Illinois politics, as The Ticket noted here the other day. By naming the 71-year-old Burris, who's never lost an election to a Republican, Blagojevich places Reid in the uncomfortable political position of blocking an experienced black political vote-getter from replacing a black and becoming the Senate's only black member.

Several African American House members of the Black Caucus have called for Burris' seating. And the governor's office now blithely suggests that Reid has a conflict of interest.

A Blagojevich spokesman said, "It seems to the governor that Sen. Reid has a horse in the race and Roland Burris isn't one of them."

In a strongly worded statement late Saturday night Reid accused the governor of "leaking and distorting conversations."

Reid added: "Gov. Blagojevich's efforts to try to tarnish others while the cloud of suspicion continues to grow over him are shameful, as are his efforts to further betray the public trust and sow seeds of division."

The now thoroughly racially tinged controversy is more than likely to come up this morning when Burris appears on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Associated Press (Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada).

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