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Senate Republicans mix politics with impeachment trial
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale


State Sen. Matt Murphy , R-Palatine


State Sen. Carole Pankau, R-Roselle


State Sen. John Millner, R-Carol Stream


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Published: 1/23/2009 12:26 PM | Updated: 1/23/2009 4:50 PM

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The 2010 campaign season is under way.

Using the impending impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich as a backdrop, four local state Senate Republicans held a media confab Friday to say their party has to be proactive getting its message out now to convince voters that the state runs better under GOP leadership.

"The Republican Party has to reach out and remind people we ran the state well," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.

The senators also cast a wide net of blame for the current situation.

"This guy (Blagojevich) didn't just land here without any help," said state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine. "It's in the impeachment documents. The entire Democratic apparatus is responsible for this."

Meanwhile, state Democratic leaders said the GOP has already proven they can't win campaigns using Blagojevich as a target, and voters will see through the latest effort.

"It failed them once; there's no reason to think it won't fail them again," said Steve Brown, a spokesman for state House Speaker Mike Madigan who also serves as the state Democratic Party chairman. "Mike Madigan was the only person telling people to stay clear of Rod Blagojevich. They're the ones who walked away from the Republican Party platform to do a deal on gambling with Rod Blagojevich."

The GOP senators don't understand why Blagojevich plans to blow off his impeachment trial that starts Monday in Springfield. They say the trial rules are broad and borrow from previous impeachment proceedings at the federal and state level that stood up to judicial scrutiny. In addition, they point out the jury consists mostly of members of the governor's own party.

"I find it ironic the governor doesn't trust the state Senate to give him a fair trial," Dillard said. "The Senate Democrats are enablers who helped get this governor re-elected two years ago."

Dillard and Murphy are two of the four Republicans on the nine-member Senate panel tasked with forming the rules for the pending trial. They were joined by Roselle Sen. Carole Pankau and Carol Stream Sen. John Millner at a morning briefing in Glen Ellyn.

"Having looser evidentiary rules is even easier for him," Murphy said. "But it's all a moot point if you take your ball and go home and not show up."

Millner said Blagojevich's hesitancy to participate in the impeachment trial doesn't bode well for his case.

"It seems to me he thinks he can't win it and doesn't have an argument," he said. "It would be to his advantage to fight this thing and get his side of the story out. Why wouldn't he come and defend himself?"

All four say they are going into the proceedings with an open mind and will let the evidence guide their decisions, though Pankau admitted the governor is making it hard. She complained the governor is trying influence jurors in a potential criminal trial by granting interviews to the media, but not sitting for the impeachment trial.

"Just about the time you think a little logic will prevail, boom, he's off on another tangent," she said.

Millner expressed reservations about politicizing the impeachment trial, saying the trial shouldn't be about politics but rather "doing what's right and doing it right."