Steve Chapman

There was Roland Burris, the former state comptroller who got himself named to the vacancy. Burris originally said "there was not any contact" between his people and the governor's people about the appointment. He later amended and re-amended that claim -- with the crucial revisions coming after the Senate had agreed to let him be sworn in.

Much later came the revelation of a wiretapped call between him and the governor's brother, before Burris was chosen, in which they discussed ways an appointee might express his gratitude. He promised to send Blagojevich a campaign contribution.

The Senate Democratic leadership, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, originally declared that "anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus." A few weeks later -- I know this will shock you -- that promise went poof.

Gov. Pat Quinn, the Democrat who succeeded Blagojevich following his impeachment, had supported holding a special election to fill the vacancy. But seeing the possibility that the Democrats might lose, he and the legislature dropped the idea like a hot stove.

Last week, though, it was revived by a federal appeals court, which said the Constitution requires a special election. What began as tragedy has degenerated into farce: On Nov. 2, 2010, Illinoisans may get to choose someone to finish a term that will end in January 2011, at the same time they choose someone to occupy the office until January 2017.

Right now, the race includes Republican Mark Kirk, who has made a name with tall tales about his Navy career and his teaching experience, and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who claimed to have been a major force at his family's bank but now blames others for its failure.

In Illinois politics, fiction is the only truth.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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