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Joliet area lawmakers react to Blagojevich sentence

State Rep. Tom Cross

State Rep. Tom Cross

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Updated: January 9, 2012 9:17AM

Local legislators said a 14-year prison sentence for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich sends a strong message against corruption but expressed mixed feelings as to whether it will translate into a changed political culture.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he hopes Blagojevich’s fate serves as a warning to future office holders.

“I hope it’s a deterrent,” he said. “Let’s hope. We certainly need to clean up Illinois’ image.”

State Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, said he was not surprised by the double-digit sentence.

“He broke the law and he completely violated the public trust,” Wilhelmi said. “I’m glad this saga is coming to a close. We need to get our state back on track and be focused on good efficient government.”

‘A very, very strong message’

The corruption linked to Blagojevich combined with state’s financial mess have wreaked havoc on both public trust and the state’s image, said state Rep. Renee Kosel, R-Mokena.

“I will tell you that I am personally sick of telling people what state I’m from and having them giggle,” she said.

A 14-year sentence prison sentence for Blagojevich should help change the culture of Illinois government, Kosel said. She commended U.S. District Judge James Zagel for delivering a stiff sentence and said she believed the general public expected the former governor to get off easier.

“It absolutely sends a very, very strong message,” Kosel said.

She said the sentence will re-enforce change that already is occurring in Springfield and noted much of that change is being created by voters.

“There is a tremendous turnover in the Legislature,” Kosel said. “There are an awful lot of people down there who were not brought up in the old ways. I think the culture is changing.”

“I really hope that the tide is changing,” said state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, who has been in office for less than a year. She noted, however, that Blagojevich becomes the fourth Illinois governor to go to prison, so it’s hard to gauge what long-term impact will come from the latest gubernatorial conviction.

“I think people in Illinois tend to be desensitized to certain things that in other states would not be tolerated,” Rezin said. Nevertheless, she said the believes the Blagojevich sentence does “send a strong message that this behavior is no longer tolerated.”

‘Some justice has been served’

In a written statement, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, said Blagojevich never understood the difference between serving the public and serving his own interests.

“Ultimately, the people of Illinois have suffered the consequences,” Kinzinger said. “Although Blagojevich’s punishment will not restore statewide, much less nationwide certainty in Illinois, some justice has been served to our state today. We must now move past this humiliating time in history and turn our focus toward working together to rebuild Illinois.”

Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said Blagojevich’s “half-hearted” apology at his sentencing was too little, too late.

“It’s a very sad case,” Glasgow said. “He made a mockery of the governorship of the state of Illinois.”

The state deserved a governor who acted against his own self interests and resisted the temptation to treat his office like a “candy store,” he added.

Blagojevich, who turns 55 on Saturday, won’t be out of prison until he’s almost 67 years old because he has to serve 85 percent of his term.

“He’s certainly going to miss the best years of his daughters’ lives,” Glasgow said.

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