Large legislative shoes to fill

By Daniel Gilbert

While Barack Obama may be on to bigger and better things, someone had to fill the void that the newly elected senator left in the Illinois State legislature. On Saturday, November 6, Kwame Raoul, a Hyde Park attorney, was named Obama’s successor by an 11-member committee mostly made up of aldermen from the 13th District.

Raoul was chosen from a field of seven candidates, following a campaign of several months. Raoul stood out from the other candidates as he was the only one to have previous experience running for political office—he campaigned unsuccessfully to unseat Alderman Toni Preckwinkle in 1996—and this may well have been a deciding factor in his selection. As a senior attorney for the City Colleges of Chicago, Raoul recently helped to resolve a three-week walkout by teachers.

The committee’s choice of Raoul came as a surprise to some. Will Burns, an advisor to state Senate President Emil Jones, was considered a favorite because of his proximity to Jones. Burns was dismayed by the announcement but vowed to run against Raoul in the 2006 elections.

Obama did not consult the committee or make a recommendation prior to the announcement of Raoul’s selection, according to Alderman Leslie Hairston of the fifth Ward, who made the announcement on Saturday.