Now, Finally, We Can Clean Up This State

I've received dozens of calls and messages this morning. The ones who don't know me that well said, "You must be so happy." I'm not. I'm heartbroken.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's sudden arrest of Governor Blagojevich was required to interrupt an ongoing political crime spree. According to the complaint, the Governor was in the midst of selling a seat in the United States Senate to the highest bidder, shaking down Children's Memorial Hospital, and muscling the Chicago Tribune. It is a day many have long anticipated, but wished would never happen.

Two years ago I took on Mr. Blagojevich in the Democratic Primary. It was already clear back then that he was deeply involved in the kind of pay-to-play politics that have tainted our state for too long. In January of 2006 I described how the governor had raised $2,667 per hour as governor. I described in detail how the public record already made clear that his fundraising interfered with the business of the state.

Cynics say the people of Illinois are not ready to clean up the state. Not true. Almost a quarter-of-a-million Democratic voters stood with me two years ago, and that was against an incumbent Democrat in a time when attention was focused on Republican mistakes in Washington. Since then we've elected Barack Obama President, giving courage to many that change is possible. Now, as the horrible revelations in the complaint against Governor Blagojevich sink in, change isn't just possible, it's certain.

How does it begin?

We demand his resignation and if it is not forthcoming tonight, the legislature must convene to impeach him immediately. Similarly, as the process of Senate appointment is tainted, the legislature must immediately act to stop an appointment by changing the law. There are several options ranging from establishment of a special election to denying the appointment power to a governor out on bond in a criminal case.

Fundamental change takes time. I knew two years ago that change was possible. Now it is certain. Despite the terrible embarrassment of having two governors in a row hauled away by the feds, I know we can do better. This old book must be closed now.