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Ranks of unemployed governors swells by one; Illinois ousts Blago

January 29, 2009 |  2:58 pm

(UPDATES below.)

Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich is now former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Democrat-controlled state Senate, where someone named Barack Obama used to vote Present, cast a unanimous 59-0 vote to sustain the Democrat-controlled House impeachment. So, despite quoting famous people from history, Blagojevich, the former prosecutor who maintained his innocence to the end, was removed from office effective immediately, the first time in state history its chief executive has been ousted. And the eighth governor in U.S. history.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, then-Senator Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in happier times

Knowing what was coming, the ex-governor had already cleaned any personal possessions out of the executive residence.

"The fix is in," he's been saying in recent days, seeking to portray himself as the victim of an unjust political cabal.

Blagojevich flew back to Chicago on a state plane and is now officially unemployed. He'll have only his pensions from the U.S. House and from the Illinois legislature.

And, who knows, maybe a cable TV job.

Great state of relief envelops the great state of Lincoln, where political corruption is not rare and Blagojevich's glib chutzpah has long irked fellow Democrats.

As Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley commented the other day on his one-time close political ally, "Cookoo! Cookoo!"

(UPDATE: This evening Obama issued a short statement bemoaning "a crisis of leadership" and "painful episode for Illinois." The president added, "Now that cloud has lifted" and wished the new governor well.)

Blagojevich's federal arrest, crude, blatant wiretap transcripts and charges of selling access to government, including the nomination to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat, gave his longtime opponents a perfect opening. They said later he clearly could not govern and denied trying to settle any old scores. Whoever could imagine such a thing in Illinois' machine Democratic politics?

The ex-governor's recent media circus tour obviously had no impact on the state's 59 senators. But then, Blago was more likely talking to some future federal jurors. His corruption trial won't happen for many months, while prosecutors continue to sift evidence and squeeze a major Democratic political fixer, Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, already convicted on federal corruption charges, in solitary confinement and providing evidence to ameliorate his prison sentence.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was waiting in the Assembly's wings and almost immediately sworn in later Thursday. "Our hearts are hurting," he said, vowing to restore trust and integrity to state government. The ex-governor was expected to address the press later.

(UPDATE: Blagojevich noted he'd been twice elected governor, said he was "saddened and disappointed but not at all surprised" by the Senate vote. He said he would soon provide further "inside" details of what the Senate was trying to do. "The fight goes on," he added, warning that his successor would raise taxes.)

Though officially gone, Blago leaves a political legacy. Despite demands, vows, promises etc from Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and even President-elect Obama, the politically skillful Blagojevich got his man, Roland Burris, nominated and sworn in to fill Obama's old U.S. Senate seat as the only black there.

The 72-year-old Burris, once viewed as a placeholder for a stronger Democratic candidate to run in 2010, is seeking to stifle that effort. He's already organized his own campaign fundraising effort for next year.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Associated Press (Rod Blagojevich, Barack Obama, Richard M. Daley).