WASHINGTON -- Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) would like to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. The appointment was dangled before him last Wednesday. He turned it down.
We discussed why when we talked Tuesday night, hours after a defiant Gov. Blagojevich, facing impeachment for, among other charges, trying to sell the Obama seat, tapped former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the spot, touching off a racially inflammatory firestorm.
Davis, speaking on the phone from Chicago, said he met with Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. last Wednesday morning. The two met in Davis' Chicago office. Davis said he was told "the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot." After Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.
But he conferred with Adam anyway, out of "respect" for the office of the governor, Davis told me; besides, Blagojevich has not yet been indicted nor found guilty of anything.
Davis, first elected to the House in 1996, has been restless: In 2006, he eyed the Cook County Board presidency after Board President John H. Stroger Jr. had a stroke. And now, just weeks after being named to the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House, Adam was making him an offer.
You know the backstory, as did Davis: the Senate Democrats said they would not seat anyone appointed by the tainted Blaogjevich.
Davis met again with Adam, Friday at 9 a.m. "I indicated I came to the conclusion there was too much discomfort on my part and the part of my family," Davis said. Anyway, he could not see how the governor could name anyone and make it stick.
But most important, Davis said he realized that if he took the job, "It would be difficult to generate the trust level people would have to have in me. I just decided there was too much turmoil, too much disagreement. It was something I wanted to do, but I said I would not take an appointment from the governor."
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), an African American, heated up the race question when he appeared Tuesday with Blagojevich and Burris, using racially charged language. Backing Burris, the first African American to win an Illinois statewide office, Rush said, don't "hang or lynch the appointee, as you try to castigate the appointer."
Obama was the only African American in the Senate, and Rush said the seat must go to an African American.
(Rush did not invoke racial solidarity when Obama faced a Senate primary in 2004. Rush backed another candidate, Blair Hull, payback for Obama's failed challenge to unseat Rush in 2002.)
Davis, an African American, disagrees with Rush. It's not all about race.
Said Davis, "I always said that I don't think it is a seat that belongs to anybody. . . . The person should be who can best unify the state and bring back a sense of integrity and trust. . . . The seat does not belong to any race or any ethnic group or any category of individual. It belongs to the voters."