My Sun-Times colleague Fran Spielman has a report in the Thursday paper about how Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), President elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff, was mulling looking for a placeholder to keep "his" House seat warm so he could reclaim it in a few years.
BY FRAN SPIELMAN
Sun-Times City Hall Reporter
CHICAGO--Rahm Emanuel's role in attempting to influence Gov. Blagojevich's choice of a U.S. Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama could impact the heated race to fill another important vacancy: Emanuel's own seat in Congress.
Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Mayor Daley's unofficial City Council floor leader, had hoped to emerge from the crowded field of candidates in the 5th Congressional District by winning Daley's support and by persuading Emanuel to use his formidable powers of persuasion to clear the field.
But now that the Chicago Sun-Times has lifted the veil on Emanuel's efforts to persuade Blagojevich to appoint Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate, Emanuel has -- as one veteran ward boss put it -- "gone underground."
The new White House chief of staff is reluctant to get involved in the 5th District race, which has attracted more than two dozen candidates.
On Wednesday, O'Connor acknowledged he had not yet lined up the support he needs to win the Democratic endorsement, in part because Emanuel is standing on the sidelines.
"The problem is, they're in the middle of a very serious situation and this is less important [by] comparison," O'Connor said, referring to the transition process.
Measuring his words carefully to avoid alienating Emanuel, the alderman said: "He could clear the field, but I'm not asking him to do that at this time."
After reviewing the transcripts of the Blagojevich tapes, O'Connor said he doesn't believe Emanuel will be tainted by the scandal.
"The only thing Congressman Emanuel has done was indicate that they had some preferences as to who they wanted [in] the seat, and that all they were willing to trade for that was their appreciation," O'Connor said.
Emanuel was on track to become U.S. House speaker someday before accepting Obama's offer. He has told Democratic ward bosses that he would like to reclaim the seat after a few years as chief of staff.
He was believed to be leaning toward O'Connor, in part, because the alderman might be amenable to giving up the seat at some point.