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Published: Saturday, 2/21/2009

Governor tells Burris to quit


CHICAGO - U.S. Sen. Roland Burris kept out of sight yesterday as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn joined the roster of fellow Democrats calling for his resignation following new disclosures about his appointment. The White House urged Mr. Burris to take the weekend to consider his future.

Mr. Burris began the week proclaiming he had nothing to hide even as revelations mounted about his attempts to raise money for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his failures to disclose multiple conversations with Blagojevich advisers.

By yesterday, the senator eluded reporters and only repeated pleas through his spokesman to "stop the rush to judgment."

Mr. Quinn praised Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, as an honorable man and said yesterday it would be a "heroic act" for him to put the interests of the state and his constituents ahead of his own.

"It takes a great deal of fortitude and courage to do that and I think people will recognize that," Mr. Quinn said. "It's never easy to step aside and resign from anything in life, especially something as important as the United States Senate."

Mr. Burris, meanwhile, gave no indication he would heed the calls to give up the seat.

"Like he said before, he's asked the public and officials to stop the rush to judgment and to allow all of the facts to come out," spokesman Jim O'Connor said.

Mr. Burris testified before the Illinois House committee that recommended Mr. Blagojevich's impeachment in January that he hadn't contacted key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return for the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Mr. Blagojevich faces federal charges that he tried to sell the seat.

Last weekend, however, Mr. Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including the former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Mr. Burris said called three times last fall asking for fund-raising help.

Mr. Burris this week acknowledged trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for Mr. Blagojevich.

Illinois lawmakers have asked prosecutors to look into perjury charges and a preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry is under way. State Rep. Jack Franks introduced a resolution urging the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to expel Mr. Burris.

In the event Mr. Burris resigns or is expelled, Mr. Quinn has implored lawmakers to quickly pass legislation, already introduced by Mr. Franks, to fill any Senate vacancy by special election rather than gubernatorial appointment.

Mr. Quinn wants the Illinois Legislature to allow him to name a temporary replacement to a vacant seat until a special election could be held. He declined to say who he might appoint if Mr. Burris steps aside.

"At no time should our state go without full and fair representation in the United States Senate," Mr. Quinn said.

Illinois Republicans are calling for a May 26 election even if Mr. Burris doesn't resign.

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