Illinois became the 21st state on Dec 3,1818. It has been home to my father’s family, the Cathers & Burtons, and my mother’s family, the Roans & Glidewells for decades. It is the 5th most populous state and home to many different ethnic groups, religions and nationalities. It is also home to over 450-500,000 Serbian Americans.
One of the most publicized Serbian Americans from Illinois… the last few years…has been former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rod is well-known for his expensive suits and his bushy hair!! He ordered his aides to “NEVER BE WITHOUT HIS BRUSH!” He was more commonly referred to as “BLAGO”
Rod was born on December 10th, 1956 in Chicago, IL. He is one of the sons of Radislav and Mila Blagojevic. Radislav was born in Kragujevac, Serbia and his mother, Mila, was born in Gacko, Bosnia/Hertz. They fled Yugoslavia in 1947 to start a new life in a new world! Radislav worked hard to feed his family! He spent many exhausting years working in a steel plant in Chicago. Rod grew up fast! He was shining shoes, delivering pizzas, washing dishes to assist his family with the bills and to pay for his education. This helped to shape his politics. He was a strong supporter of blue-collar workers and union rights.
Rod graduated from high school and attended North Western University with a major in history. He graduated and enrolled in Pepperdine Law School in California where he graduated with his law degree…
Amateur boxing career…
He was an athletic guy! He played high school basketball and loved boxing. He had an amateur boxing career that lasted 13 months in the middle 70;s. He fought in the 160 lb middleweight class. He won his first three matches and felt it was time for Golden Gloves competition. He won his first match but lost in the championship round! He retired after the loss. He retired with a record of 4-1.
Entrance into politics……
He married Patricia Mell, daughter of powerful Chicago alderman Richard Mell. Rod left his position as Cook County Assistant States Attorney to run for State Representative in 1992. He had specialized in domestic abuse, felony gun crimes and other felony cases. His father-n-law had many connections which helped propel the Blagojevich to the top of the ticket. He easily won his first primary in 1992 to face off against the Republican opponent. The district being HEAVILY Democrat made him a shoe in. He surrendered his State Rep job in 1996 to run for congress in the Illinois 5th district. He easily defeated Republican Michael Flannagan by capturing 74% of the vote! One major accomplishment he had in congress was flying to Belgrade, Serbia in 1999 with Jesse Jackson to negotiate the release of American soldiers that had been captured. He is also the only Illinois Democrat to vote in favor of the Iraq war. He did cast a NO vote on HR1664 on May 6th, 1999. That amendment was brought before congress to stop funding for use of ground troops into Yugoslavia. The bill was defeated. http://ontheissues.org/HouseVote/Party_1999-119.htm
Run for governor…..
Rod ran for the Democratic nomination in 2002. He had a hard-fought battle with popular Attorney General Roland Burris. He drew the largest support from Southern Illinois which helped him win the party’s nomination. He would be facing Jim Ryan, not to be confused with the previous governor, George Ryan.George Ryan, a Kanakee Republican, was governor from 1999 to 2003. He was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for the “license to drive” scandal. Blagojevich beat out Jim Ryan with 52% of the vote. Becoming the first Democrat governor in Illinois… since 1972.. He ran on the platform of “CHANGE” and “FIGHTING CORRUPTION”… kinda ironic, huh?…. I was a proud supporter of Gov Blago. I remember the day I wore my Blagojevich 2002 sweatshirt to my father’s house. He just shook his head!!! hahahaha…
Re-election of 2006…..
Rod didn’t have the most productive 4 years but did make some friends and plenty of enemies! He had large support from the African-American community, gun control advocates, union workers….He claimed to have said ” I am the first African-American governor of Illinois!” He continued the moratorium on the death penalty that Gov Ryan had imposed. He also oversaw the passage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, statewide smoking ban, expansion of Kidscare and other health programs for the minority and needy, he signed a law that would prohibit discrimination of gays in housing, employment, etc and campaigned on pork barrel spending! Blago would face former Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka in the 2006 election. His approval rating had fallen to about 36% but he was able to beat her by 11% points by linking her with former corrupt Gov Ryan. Blago was very unpopular in Central Illinois. The LARGE % of my friends and family couldn’t stand to look at him and I would proudly wear my Blago clothes shirt and paint my car windows with BLAGOJEVIC 2006!!! :).. Dad told me one time to park the car behind the house so no one would see it. I liked his work with AMTRAK. He provided additional funding that would guarantee 3 trains a day for all AMTRAK locations! It is a cheap, clean and reliable form of transportation for college kids and downstate professionals!
Blago was very good at making enemies! He was despised by many Republicans and fellow Democrats. He expressed concern that if more Democrats got elected he would face greater opposition. Pat Quinn, his Lieutenant Governor, claimed they had such a falling out that they had not spoken for one year! He also had a HORRIBLE relationship with Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan. Joining the list are more fellow Democrats, Jesse White and Dan Hynes! One legislator said “That’s a real reason he has such poor relations with the Legislature and can’t get any of his agenda passed, because he doesn’t talk to anybody.” Rep Joe Lyons was quoted as saying “We have a madman. The man is insane.” Other words used to describe him “disengaged” “dictatorial” “cukoo” “lunatic”…….Blago tried intimidating one lawmaker into supporting a bill and the lawmaker claimed ” he blew up at me like a 10-year-old child. Screaming obscenities , telling me he will ruin my career”
Drop in poll numbers…….
In Oct of 2008, Blago was ranked as “least popular governor” by Rasumessen with a NEVER SEEN BEFORE 0% ranking him excellent, 4 % ranking him good, 29% fair and 64% poor. The Chicago Tribune reported that he received the lowest ratings of any politician in the history of their newspaper polls. These poor numbers were before the charges were labeled against him. His approval numbers dropped to 7% after that happened!
Corruption and arrest….
6AM … December 9th, 2008 … Federal agents showed up at Blagojevich’s residence and arrested him for counts relating to bribery and corruption. They had been investigating him for many years. They tapped his phones and had hours of taped conversations to use in the prosecution of him. The charges against him included “pay to play” schemes. He was recorded trying to sell the Senate seat that Barak Obama had left. The governor is responsible for filling the seat of anyone that vacates. One priceless moment was when he called President Obama a “m*therfucker”…
The tapes reveal a two-term governor who no longer wants his job, badly wants cash and is determined to leverage a financial benefit out of his appointment powers.
“F**k him,” Blagjoveich says of Obama during a lengthy call with top aides and his wife recorded on November 10th, “For nothing? F**k him.”
In another section of the complaint, Blagojevich expresses exasperation that Obama and his team aren’t willing to offer him an inducement in exchange for appointing an aide, apparently Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate.
Blagojevich “said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but ‘they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F**k them,'” says the complaint.
Listen to the recording….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6md3ap4YIwY
Blagojevich eventually appointed Roland Burris to fill the vacated Senate seat before he was impeached by the Illinois legislature on Jan 9th, 2009 by a vote of 114-1. He became the first Illinois governor to be impeached and was removed from office on Jan 29th, 2009. He was charged with 24 federal charges and the first jury was hung on one of the 23 counts. A mistrial was called but the prosecution said they would proceed with a retrial on the 23 counts. On June 27, 2011 …he was found guilty of 17 of the 20 charges, not guilty on one, and no verdict was rendered by the jury on two counts. He was sentenced to 14 years in Englewood Federal Correctional Center in Littleton, Colorado and started serving the sentence on Mar 15th, 2012. Colorado law states that a convict must serve up to 85% of their sentence … meaning he will be there for a minimum of 12 years. Englewood requires inmates to work at small jobs such as cleaning toilets, cooking, picking up litter, planting trees at a wage of $.12 an hour.
There are many wonderful, intelligent, inspiring Serbians in the great state of Illinois but this is one for the record books! I get lots of messages from people saying that I never talk about any negatives. Here you go!!! I loved Rod Blagojevich and never dreamed he would turn into this kind of monster. There are some conspiracy theorists that claim he was targeted because of his threat to stop all business with Bank of America. Who knows!!! When you listen to him on those tapes its hard to believe that!!!