Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
National

Illinois Senate Contender Defends Blagojevich

Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) told reporters Wednesday that he did nothing wrong in connection with the Blagojevich scandal.

Details of a recent criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that landed him in federal custody on Tuesday continue to fuel a deepening political scandal largely focused on how the governor allegedly intended to exercise his sole authority to replace the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Investigators say recorded conversations capture Blagojevich attempting to sell the vacant appointment to the highest-bidding contender.

Rep. Danny K. Davis is among a handful of Illinois leaders vying to fill the seat left open by Obama. The Democrat says he did meet with Blagojevich to seek his support, but says it was never implied that something might be expected in exchange for the governor's favorable nod.

"There's never been any notion or hint of impropriety or quid pro quo [by the governor regarding my candidacy]," Davis says.

Advertisement

The basis of the allegations, however, seems more closely associated with one of Davis' congressional colleagues. Wednesday, investigators revealed that fellow Illinois lawmaker Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is the mysterious figure referenced as "Candidate 5" in the charges against the governor. Details point to Blagojevich communicating with someone acting on Jackson's behalf who was willing to help boost Blagojevich's campaign coffers in exchange for serious consideration of Jackson as Obama's appointed replacement.

After learning of the allegations, Davis, who represents Illinois' 7th Congressional District since 1997, says he was stunned.

"I was totally devastated. Couldn't believe it," he explains.

But despite his own astonishment, Davis is not as convinced as other political leaders, including Obama, who say the scandal calls for the governor to resign.

"I'm not calling for his resignation. This is the United States of America. We take the position that you are innocent until proven guilty," he says in defense of Blagojevich.

Advertisement

Blagojevich has only been charged with a criminal complaint. He has not been indicted.

But amid the growing scandal, Davis does recall a bit of advice he gave the governor.

"When I met with him, I suggested that he make the decision [on Obama's Senate replacement] as soon as he possibly could," Davis remembers, thinking that if Blagojevich made his choice soon after Obama's presidential win, it might limit any potential infighting over the position.

"I just never understood why it was taking so long."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.