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Rockford Responds To Blagojevich's Early Release From Prison

Connie Kuntz
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara is a Democrat.

Illinois elected officials have strong feelings about former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's early release from prison. He served eight years of his 14 year sentence because President Donald Trump commuted his sentence earlier this week. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara doesn't agree with the president's move.

"I really think it was a horrible decision and sends a really bad signal, not just to politicians, but to all citizens across the state."

McNamara elaborated. "Look back at what he did. He literally tried to do one of the worst things you can do in politics, which is to enrich himself while selling a public seat."

Rockford's Democratic mayor said Blagojevich bypassed the trust of the citizens. McNamara emphasized that this is not a partisan issue. "Republican, Democrat, Green Party, Independent -- what he did is despicable and I think he should serve his full sentence."

Credit Connie Kuntz
Rockford Alderman John Beck identifies as a "moderate Republican."

John Beck identifies as a moderate Republican and is the alderman for Rockford's 12th ward. He said the disgraced governor "certainly served a significant amount of time."

Beck was clear about his opinion of Blagojevich. "I was never a big fan. In fact, I was a pretty outspoken 'non-fan' during his tenure in government. I thought he made a lot of efforts that were counterproductive for the state and I think we're still paying for a lot of those." He continued, "I was happy to see him out of office no matter how it happened at the time." 

Beck said Blagojevich's convictions speak to the type of leader he was. "He was not necessarily looking out for the citizens of the state of Illinois but more for himself."

As for Blagojevich's future, Beck said, "I honestly wouldn't even begin to guess. I'm sure he still has friends in places that can give him a job. I don't see him having a job that would have anything to do with the government or, I would hope, anything to do with tax dollars. But whatever he can do in the private sector based on his name and connections he has, more power to him."

Hear the 53-second audio with Alderman John Beck and Jennifer Wilz.

Jennifer Wilz is not an elected official. She is a citizen of Rockford and though she is not affiliated with any party, said she is “definitely on the left.” She expressed disappointment and shock at Blagojevich’s early release from federal prison.

“He tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat. That was such blatant corruption. He deserved the punishment he got.”

Credit Connie Kuntz
Jennifer Wilz is not affiliated with any party but says she is "definitely on the left."

She continued, “Early release is for someone where we’ve decided the crime wasn’t committed -- or the crime wasn’t as bad as we thought. He did what he was accused and convicted of doing.”

Wilz expressed her irritation about the presidential pardon. “I think it’s a symbol. It’s the federal government thumbing its nose at Illinois, specifically, and, as an Illinois resident, I am offended by that.”

Wilz is the mother of a boy in elementary school and she spoke about parenting in today’s political climate. “I struggle often to explain to my son how and why things are happening. When this came up in the news, I had to tell him what Blagojevich did and that he was being released. It’s not a good example to set for our kids or our society.”

As for any predictions Wilz has for Blagojevich’s future, she said, “I hope that he’ll just go home and have some family time, but I suspect that he thinks he’ll have some kind of political career or some kind of public persona career.” She continued, “I can see him being a pundit on a news cast, or on speaking on Fox News of CNN or something like that.  I wouldn’t be surprised. He certainly has the name recognition and political experience to be a commentator although I don’t think his opinion is one I respect anymore.”