Former state attorney general, Roland Burris, was chosen by embattled llinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill vacant seat.
Amidst controversy stemming from allegations that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, Roland Burris was appointed Tuesday to fill the vacancy.
Burris, 71, had previously served as Illinois state comptroller and Attorney General from 1979-1995 and expressed interest in the seat despite the ongoing FBI investigation.
He refused to address the matter during Tuesday's conference, saying that "in this legal process, you're innocent until you're proven guilty."
Burris' appointment makes him the fourth African-American Senator since Reconstruction but his selection has already been met with mixed reaction not because of the man who has appointed him.
Gov. Blagojevich was arrested on December 9 for offering Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. While he has not admitted any wrong-doing, he has been asked to resign by Senate Democratic leaders and Obama before appointing a successor that would be subject to scrutiny.
His decision to remain as governor has been met with overwhelming criticism inside and outside the state and now it has passed on to his selection of Burris to the Senate.
"The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said in a statement Tuesday.
Reid said that Democratic leaders in the Senate would block the appointment by invoking Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution ("Each House shall be the Judge of the Election, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.).
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White must also certify the appointment, but White said that his office would not approve the selection.
But supporters such as Rep. Bobby Rush have urged senators not to bar the appointment based on Blagojevich's situation.
"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer and separate the appointee from the appointer," Rush said at the conference.
He added that with no African-Americans currently in the Senate, "I don't think any U.S. senator who's sitting in the Senate right now wants to on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate."
In the middle of this is Burris, a four-decade veteran of Illinois politics whose integrity and experience were cited during the conference. He would serve the remaining two years of Obama's term
"I welcome the challenge that awaits us," he said, urging citizens to have confidence in his record.
A native of Centralia, Ill., he received his bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and his law degree from Howard University. In 1979, he became the state comptroller, which made him the first African-American elected to a statewide office in Illinois.
He served in that capacity until 1991 when he became the second African-American elected as a state Attorney General. After stepping down in 1995, he served as the Manager/CEO of Burris & Lebed Consulting, LLC since 2002.
Burris had previously lost in his attempts to seek higher office. He had sought the Democratic nomination for the Senate in 1984, Illinois governor in 1994, 1998 and 2002, and mayor of Chicago in 1995.