updated 3:37 p.m. Chicago time....
WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama will step down from his U.S. senate seat on Sunday, he said in a statement on Thursday. All political eyes in Illinois are on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to see who he will select to replace Obama for the two years remaining in his term. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has been the most overt in positioning himself, but other frontrunners include Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Illinois Veterans Affairs Chief Tammy Duckworth, who Obama appeared with on Veterans Day. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is also interested in the seat.
Blagojevich is under no legal deadline to select an Obama replacement. The governor has to weigh a few factors: whether racial politics play a role, because Obama was the only African-American in the Senate and who has a political and fund-raising network that could help should Blagojevich seek a third term.
It's been a long time since an Illinois governor had this juicy a plum to give away: the last Senate vacancy was in 1969 when Ralph Tyler Smith was selected by then Gov. Richard Ogilvie to fill the slot left vacant by the death of Sen. Everett Dirksen.
"It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate. In a state that represents the crossroads of a nation, I have met so many men and women who've taken different journeys, but hold common hopes for their children's future.
"It is these Illinois families and their stories that will stay with me as I leave the United States Senate and begin the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation's next President,'" Obama said in a statement.
FROM THE OBAMA TRANSITION TEAM
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PRESIDENT ELECT RESIGNS HIS SENATE SEAT?
· The Senate Office will remain open for a period of time, but no longer than 60 days after the President-elect's resignation from the Senate.
· During that time, the Senate staff will be in the process of closing the office, including archiving the Senate documents for the Presidential library and contacting constituents to inform them as to how any open casework will need to be handled.
· The people of the State of Illinois will continue to be served - casework will be handled so as to ensure constituents receive the assistance they need.
· The President-elect hopes to make the transition of the incoming Senator as smooth as possible. His staff will work with him/her to meet the needs of the people of Illinois.