Right now you can't go long without hearing Roland Burris' name. But since he spent the last decade out of the political spotlight, we don't know much about him. But we spoke with a local politician who does and tells us he believes Burris would make a great senator.
The name on everyone's lips hangs on a wall in the office of our new Winnebago County State's Attorney. In 1991, Roland Burris made Joe Bruscato director of the Rockford branch of the Illinois Attorney General's office. He served under Burris for four years. The framed certificate still hangs as a reminder.
"Any time the regional office had a case that was in particular high profile, Attorney General Burris would come out," says Bruscato. "Beyond that, from time to time I would go in and have meetings that would include Attorney General Roland Burris."
Bruscato calls Burris competent and concerned with citizens' needs. He also says his former boss made it easy to work with him.
"I always very much appreciated the way he would talk to me personally," says Bruscato. "He would ask me about how was my family and how were things in the office. He would share what he was thinking and ask my perspective."
So when Bruscato heard Governor Rod Blagojevich had named Burris as Barack Obama's senate successor...
"It didn't surprise me," says Bruscato. "It made sense to me. Roland Burris has an excellent record as a public servant. He has the qualifications."
But that may not be enough to land Burris in office. The question now is whether the controversy surrounding Governor Blagojevich will taint Burris' appointment beyond what the senate can stomach.
"I don't think that anything that's gone on at this point in time changes the achievements of Mr. Burris' career. They stand on their own," says Bruscato.
23 News also spoke with Rockford College political science professor Bob Evans. He says the senate may not have legal grounds to exclude Burris and that if they continue to try, Burris could turn to legal action.
Evans also says it hurts Illinois not to have a second senator in office, especially this week as important committee assignments are doled out. He adds the longer the controversy continues, the longer the Blagojevich embarrassment continues, which could drive potential businesses away from our state.