Rick Winkel lands on his feet (??)

Rick Winkel lands on his feet (??)

From this afternoon's News-Gazette:

"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."

Aside from Winkel possibly getting a new job and doubling his annual income -- from $66,390 a year now to $140,000 -- the most interesting facet to this story is what it does to the race to succeed Winkel in the Senate.

If Winkel gets the U.S. attorney's job he'll be leaving his Senate seat about a year early. And the two Republican county chairmen in the 52nd District, state Rep. Bill Black in Vermilion County and Steve Hartman in Champaign County, get to name the replacement. Black told me today that he'd support appointing Judy Myers, who announced just last week that she will run for Winkel's Senate seat next year.

If all of this falls into place, it gives Myers' campaign a nice lift and may even give her a bit of an advantage next year when she faces the presumed Democratic candidate, Champaign County Auditor Mike Frerichs.

Black said all the maneuvering gave him some pause. If he had known about Miller's resignation and Winkel's possible appointment to the U.S. attorney's job, he said he may have announced for Winkel's seat.

'It might have made a difference," Black said. "I don't know, but if I had had a crystal ball about eight weeks ago, maybe things would be different."

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