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Blagojevich fights for right to run for state, local office — but insists, ‘I don’t have any particular plan to do it’

With a camera crew following him around, the former governor told the reporters he’d invited to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, “I don’t like this place.”

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks during a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse before filing a suit to challenge the Illinois General Assembly’s disqualifying resolution that prohibits him from running for any state or local office, Monday afternoon, Aug. 2, 2021.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks during a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse before filing a suit to challenge the Illinois General Assembly’s disqualifying resolution that prohibits him from running for any state or local office, Monday afternoon, Aug. 2, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich returned Monday to the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where he filed a lawsuit challenging a state Senate resolution that prevents him from running for state or local office.

“I don’t like this place,” Blagojevich said of the building where he had previously been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on corruption charges. “I only have unhappy memories associated with this building.”

The former governor also began to tell reporters, “Now, I don’t have any —” before he stopped himself and instead said, “I may or may not run for public office again. I don’t have any particular plan to do it. I don’t have any plans to do it.”

He was followed by a camera crew working for TV stations owned by ABC.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks during a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse before filing a suit to challenge the Illinois General Assembly’s disqualifying resolution that prohibits him from running for any state or local office, Monday afternoon, Aug. 2, 2021.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks during a news conference outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse before filing a suit to challenge the Illinois General Assembly’s disqualifying resolution that prohibits him from running for any state or local office, Monday afternoon, Aug. 2, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Blagojevich spent eight years in federal prison before then-President Donald Trump commuted his sentence in February 2020. Though an appellate court tossed five of Blagojevich’s 18 convictions in 2015, federal prosecutors would argue he remained convicted “of the same three charged shakedowns” for which he was first sentenced in 2011.

Those included his attempt to sell then-President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, to shake down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions, and to hold up a bill to benefit the racetrack industry for $100,000 in campaign contributions.

Trump’s commutation also did not undo Blagojevich’s convictions.

Blagojevich’s lawsuit seeks a declaration finding that the state Senate’s resolution preventing him from running for state and local office is unconstitutional. It also seeks an injunction that would allow him to run for office.

“Allowing voters [to] decide who to vote for or not to vote for is not adverse to the public interest,” the lawsuit states. “It is in the public interest.”

Blagojevich is representing himself in the case.

Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and now senior managing director of Guidepost Solutions, said Blagojevich’s lawsuit presents a novel question: “Does Springfield have the right to tell the citizens you can’t vote for this person?”

But a judge will also have to decide whether to wade into the political machinations of Illinois.

“Is it a Hail Mary pass? Absolutely,” Cramer said. “Does it have a good chance of winning? Probably not. But is he going to get his day in court? Yeah, he is.”