Published July 10, 2009
Embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris said Friday he won't run for a full term in 2010, making official the end of a short Senate career clouded by questions about his appointment by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Burris, the only black U.S. senator, said he was bowing out of the 2010 race because of the burden of raising money to pay for a campaign.
"I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds, or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of the state of Illinois should always come first," Burris said.
"And so today, I have returned to the place where my political journey began back in 1978, back to the South Side of Chicago, back to my community and my constituency to announce, my friends, that I will not be a candidate in the 2010 election, and that I will not run for the United States Senate," he told supporters who minutes earlier had chanted, "Run, Roland, Run!"
His decision caps a long political career that included stints as Illinois' comptroller and attorney general.
Blagojevich appointed Burris to the seat once held by President Barack Obama in December, just weeks after the then-governor was arrested on charges of trying to sell the seat.
After his appointment, Burris fought waves of criticism, opposition from fellow Democrats, court battles and even a perjury investigation. He seemed to acknowledge the travails of the last seven months in his announcement.
"Serving in public life is not easy, but it is a noble and rewarding calling," he said.
Senate Democratic leaders initially vowed not to seat him, but eventually relented when he agreed to give sworn testimony about his appointment to an Illinois panel that was considering impeaching Blagojevich.
He told that panel he had talked to only one Blagojevich associate about the Senate post before it was offered, but later acknowledged other conversations. He denied having any discussions of campaign donations, but it turned out federal investigators had recorded him talking to Blagojevich's brother about the possibility of raising money for the governor.
Burris has maintained he did nothing improper to get the seat. A prosecutor who looked into whether Burris should be charged with perjury for his incomplete testimony to the impeachment panel concluded it would be impossible to prove.
Burris' fundraising has been lackluster; he raised only $845 during the first three months of 2009. Polls have shown he has little voter support and he doesn't have the backing of top Illinois politicians, including fellow Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who has said repeatedly he would not support Burris for a full term.
His decision is the latest major development in the closely watched Senate race in Illinois. On Wednesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who would have been a likely front-runner in the Democratic primary, also opted out of the race to seek another term as the state's top lawyer.
Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias plans to seek the Democratic nomination and the other Democrats are considering getting in too, including Christopher Kennedy, a Chicago businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson.
Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is looking at a GOP bid for the seat.