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Governor should resign immediately
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 12/10/2008 12:02 AM

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The American justice system presumes everyone is innocent until proven guilty in court.

So we will not weigh in today on the egregiousness of the federal charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff. We will not muse over what he is accused of saying or demanding in regards to appointing a new U.S. senator to take over President-elect Obama's seat.

Instead, we want to focus on what happens next. Someone needs to take over as Illinois' junior senator. If Blagojevich makes that appointment, it's tainted from the start no matter what is proved or disproved in court.

Someone also needs to attend to the crucial needs of the state at a time when the economy is in recession.

That someone can't be Blagojevich. He needs to resign immediately.

There is no way Blagojevich can govern the state and fight these corruption charges at the same time. Something will have to give, and we think it inevitable that his priority will be to stay out of prison.

"While there is a presumption of innocence, in these troubling economic times the people's work should be placed ahead of Gov. Blagojevich's legal troubles," said state GOP Chairman Andy McKenna.

Democrats agree: "For the well-being of Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich must resign immediately," Comptroller Dan Hynes said.

Even before the governor was unceremoniously arrested at his Chicago home Tuesday morning, he had trouble working with the Legislature. That has been well documented over the years. It will be near impossible for him to have any effectiveness in the legislative process with these charges hanging over his head.

Even his most ardent supporters - such as outgoing Senate President Emil Jones - are prepared to take away his power to appoint the next U.S. senator.

And his most ardent critics will be ready to start the impeachment process as soon as possible. Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she's prepared to get the Illinois Supreme Court involved in ousting the governor.

But special elections, impeachment hearings, court proceedings and corruption trials all can take a long time. They all cost money. And they all divert attention from the urgent needs of the state.

Blagojevich's resignation would make all that moot. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would take over. He would have the power to appoint a new senator. He could focus on the state's problems and start working with the Legislature to accomplish things that have been tangled up for years, such as a capital projects plan. Illinois' new senator could get to work as well rather than leaving open that important office for months.

And Blagojevich could say he did what was right for the people who elected him and then concentrate on his defense. He'll need that time.

Illinois residents, meanwhile, will need that time to recover from the stench of another governor caught up in scandal.