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Burris is Seated as Rep. Meek Plans Fla. Senate Race

AFRO, News Report, James Wright Posted: Jan 15, 2009

As Illinois Senator-designate Roland Burris is set to get President-elect Barack Obamas seat this week, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus is also making plans to become a senator.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) has decided to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2010, which is being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

Meek, who replaced his mother, Carrie, in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, said that his commitment to public service makes him want to be a senator.

Public service and a commitment to make a better life for the people of Florida has been my mission, Meek said, announcing his decision Tuesday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Ive given Florida a strong voice on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and was appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the House leadership. But never in my lifetime have the people of Florida been faced with so many big problems.

Our state needs bold leadership at every level, and that is why Ive made the decision to run as a candidate for the United States Senate. This race is not about me--it is about Floridians.

A graduate of Florida A&M University, Meek was a former captain of the Florida Highway Patrol and a member of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate before his election to Congress.

As Meek gears up for his run, Burris is preparing to become a member of what is known as the worlds most exclusive club. He said he is excited and humbled about becoming Illinois junior senator.

"My whole purpose in life, as I see it is to be a public servant, Burris said on CNNs American Morning on Jan. 13. It was his qualifications that made the difference, he said.

I think the turning point came when people looked at my credentials and saw my desire to serve, he added. I knew as the former attorney general of my state that my appointment was legal.

In addition to attorney general, Burris has been elected state comptroller and was the African American in both positions. He has run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, governor and mayor of Chicago.

Burris, chosen by a defiant Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) whos fighting corruption allegations, was able to get Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to certify his selection.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the chambers majority leader, Sen. Dick Durbin (D) from Illinois and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Rules Committee, have given Burris their blessing.

We have spoken to Mr. Burris to let him know that he is now the senator-designate from Illinois and as such, will be according all the rights and privileges of a Senator-elect, a joint statement from Reid and Durbin said. Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-Designee Burris to be sworn in and formally sealed later this week. We are working with him and the office of the Vice President to determine the date and the time of the swearing-in.

The actual swearing in date had not been set at AFRO press time.

Burris said that he holds no ill-will toward White.

He [White] is owed a debt of gratitude, said Burris. Hes an honorable man.

Burris would not speculate on whether he will run for a full-term in 2010.

When sworn in, Burris will become the sixth African American to have served in the U.S. Senate. Other African Americans who have been senators are Hiram K. Revels of Mississippi (1870-1871), Blanche Bruce of Mississippi (1875-1881), Edward Brooke of Massachusetts (1966-1978) and Illinois Carol Moseley Braun (1992-1998) and Obama (2004-2008).

Meek, hoping to become the seventh Black senator, attracted national attention in 2000 when he, as a state senator, staged a 25-hour sit-in at the Florida lieutenant governors office to protest Gov. Jeb Bushs One Florida executive orders, which called for ending the use of racial preferences in state contracting and university admissions. While Meek failed to change Bushs mind, the sit-in sparked the largest protest march in the states history at the states capitol two months later.

Bush has said he is not interested in running for the Senate in 2010. In Congress, Meek has established himself as a strong advocate for foreign aid for Haiti and fair treatment of Haitian refugees. While he is a strong proponent of trade with Caribbean nations, he is against lifting the embargo against Cuba, a position that puts him at odds with many members of the Black Caucus and Democratic Caucus.

If elected, Meek would be the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate from the South since Reconstruction.

Related Articles:

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