Despite plea, Illinois Gov. Blagojevich unanimously impeached by state’s senators for abuse of power

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office yesterday without a single lawmaker coming to his defense, brought down by a government-for-sale scandal that stretched from Chicago to Capitol Hill and turned the foul-mouthed politician into a national punchline.

Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.

“He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor,” said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

Blagojevich’s troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.

Outside his Chicago home yesterday night, Blagojevich vowed to “keep fighting to clear my name,” and added: “Give me a chance to show you that I haven’t let you down.”

“I love the people of Illinois today more than I ever have before,” he said. And in a joking reference to Chicago’s history of crooked politics, he reached down to a boy in the crowd of well-wishers and said: “I love you, man. You know, this is Chicago. You can vote for me. You’re old enough.”

Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, one of Blagojevich’s critics, was promptly sworn in as governor and said he would work to “restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government.”

Blagojevich’s name and picture were promptly stripped from the state’s official Web site, and his photo was removed from a display at the Capitol entrance. Quinn also canceled Blagojevich’s security detail.

Blagojevich, 52, had boycotted the first three days of the impeachment trial, calling the proceedings a kangaroo court. But yesterday, he went before the Senate to beg for his job, delivering a 47-minute plea that was, by turns, defiant, humble and sentimental.