from the Nov. 14, 2008 print Sun-Times...
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters
Lynn Sweet, contributing
Tammy Duckworth's star seems to be fading within Gov. Blagojevich's inner circle as the governor mulls over a potential replacement for President-elect Barack Obama, who formally will step down from his U.S. Senate seat Sunday.
Potential Obama successors who appear to be getting the closest scrutiny from the governor's camp include retiring state Senate President Emil Jones, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and state Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Duckworth, a disabled Iraqi war veteran who heads the state's Veterans Affairs Department, has close ties to Obama's political organization and has been a popular member of Blagojevich's Cabinet. The governor personally feted her during a reception at the Democratic National Convention in August.
But her odds of landing Obama's seat appear to be dimming because of her closeness to Sen. Dick Durbin, who has an icy relationship with the governor, yet has sought input into the selection process. This week, Durbin identified Duckworth as being on his list of hopefuls for the Obama seat.
For several weeks, the Blagojevich camp has been actively floating Duckworth's name as both an Obama replacement and a potential successor to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who is becoming Obama's chief of staff.
But Duckworth is said to have minimal interest in Emanuel's seat. Instead, she's eying Obama's spot in the Senate or a possible appointment to become head of the federal Veterans Affairs Department under Obama. She has forged close ties with Obama's brain trust, after having used strategist David Axelrod and Obama's presidential field director Jon Carson in a failed 2006 congressional bid.
Should Blagojevich pick Jones, the governor could reward a legislative ally and the important African-American voting bloc on whom the governor must rely if he seeks re-election.
Gutierrez has been another backer of Blagojevich's. They have been friends since their days in Congress together and come from adjoining neighborhoods.
Madigan, in many ways, is a more perplexing choice for Blagojevich given the governor's feud with her father, state House Speaker Michael Madigan. She is said not to be interested in a Blagojevich offer. But if she were, Blagojevich would be able to remove a potent political obstacle from a possible 2010 gubernatorial primary.
Blagojevich is believed to still be working under an end-of-the-year timetable to fill Obama's seat.