More on Winkel for U.S. attorney
Here's the full News-Gazette story on state Sen. Rick Winkel's application/recommendation for the U.S. attorney's position in Springfield:
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, is recommending that retiring state Sen. Rick Winkel be named the new U.S. attorney for central Illinois. And at least two other Illinois Republican congressmen [–] Jerry Weller of Morris and John Shimkus of Collinsville [–] are supporting the recommendation.
The current U.S. attorney, Jan Paul Miller, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down from the position to join a St. Louis law firm.
Miller has been the U.S. attorney since January 2002. Before that, he had been an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.
Johnson has recommended to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, that Winkel get the appointment. Hastert and Sen. Dick Durbin will consult before making a recommendation to President Bush, said Phil Bloomer, a spokesman for Johnson.
"Rick has a great legal mind," Bloomer said. "He has integrity beyond reproach. Tim has known him and has worked with him for years. He's in a perfect position to serve, in terms of his personal character and his work ethic."
Winkel, also an Urbana Republican, announced in August that he would not seek a second term as state senator in the district that includes much of Champaign and Vermilion counties.
He said he learned of Miller's impending resignation "about 10 days ago." He said he was contacted by Weller, whom he had known since their college days at the University of Illinois, and by Hastert's office.
Weller and Winkel worked together as congressional interns in the summer of 1977 [–] Winkel for former Rep. George O'Brien of Joliet, and Weller for former Rep. Tom Corcoran of Ottawa. They also were active in student politics at the UI.
"I would love to do this, to be able to be a federal prosecutor," Winkel said. "To be the U.S. attorney for central Illinois would be a dream job."
Winkel acknowledged that he had no experience as a prosecutor. "My background is primarily civil litigation, mostly in the state courts but with some experience in the federal system," he said. "But I have served on the judiciary committees in the Legislature. And in my (application) letter I wrote that I believe I have an extensive background.
"I will be able to apply myself when I need to in the office. But I will have an experienced staff. My job will be to manage the office and make sure that we prosecute cases zealously and wisely."
If he gains the appointment, Winkel would be paid $140,000 a year, a substantial raise from his $66,390 legislative salary.
Winkel began his political career with two years on the Champaign County Board. His legislative career began in the state House in 1995.
Winkel was elected to the Senate in 2002, defeating former state Sen. Judy Myers in a Republican primary and later former Champaign Mayor Dan McCollum in the general election.
If Winkel were to become the U.S. attorney, it is unclear who would complete his term in the Senate, which has more than a year to run.
But Myers, who announced last week that she hoped to get back in the Senate, would appear to have the inside track. The vacancy would be filled by the two Republican county chairmen, Steve Hartman in Champaign County and state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, in Vermilion County. The only Democratic candidate thus far is Champaign County Auditor Mike Frerichs.
Winkel said he would make no recommendation regarding a successor.
He said he expected that there would be as many as "a half-dozen" applicants for the job, and that there wouldn't be a final decision "for several weeks."