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Burris won’t run for full Senate term

/ Source: NBC News and news services

A Illinois Democrat close to Roland Burris told NBC News on Thursday that the beseiged senator will not run for a full term in 2010.

The move increases Democrats' chances of holding on to the former Senate seat of President Barack Obama.

Burris has begun informing fellow Democrats about his decision and is expected to make an announcement on Friday, a Democratic official and a friend of Burris' told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Burris has yet to discuss his decision publicly.

Burris issued a press release on Thursday evening that said he planned a "major announcement" at an event in Chicago on Friday.

Appointed by Blagojevich
Burris was appointed by disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. His appointment was criticized from the moment it was announced and prompted immediate calls for Burris to resign.

Those calls only intensified when Blagojevich was arrested in part on allegations he tried to sell the Senate Seat. Burris repeatedly changed his story about the circumstances of his appointment, first claiming he never offered anything to Blagojevich, then admitting he tried -- and failed to raise money for the then-governor.

A wiretap that was released later showed Burris bartering with Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and a top adviser.

A friend of Burris said Burris decided not to run because it would be impossible to change public perception of him without spending huge amounts of money. The friend said Burris doesn't believe he did anything wrong but acknowledged he faced a difficult task in getting elected.

In the Senate, Burris has been treated as something of a pariah because of his ties to Blagojevich. Democrats and Republicans alike have shunned him, refusing to partner with him on legislation and participating only in polite exchanges.

The Senate experience has been rough medicine for Burris, who viewed his appointment as the capstone to his career. The 71-year-old grew up in southern Illinois at a time when blacks weren't allowed to use the community swimming pool. He went on to become the first black man to hold a major statewide office in Illinois, serving three terms as state comptroller and two as attorney general.

Last election victory was in 1990
His last election victory was in 1990, however. Since then, he has lost four races: three tries at the Democratic nomination for governor and one for Chicago mayor.

Accepting Blagojevich's appointment to the Senate was a way to get back into politics at the highest levels.

His reputation and accomplishments clearly matter deeply to Burris. He has already built a mausoleum for himself and his wife. It has the words "TRAIL BLAZER" carved on it, along with all his honors and titles.

By not seeking a full term, Burris increases Democrats chances of holding on to the Senate seat in 2010. Republicans had viewed Burris as a potentially easy target if he were to run for a full-term in the Senate.

Sen. Richard Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat and the senior senator from Illinois, has said repeatedly he would not support Burris running for a full term. Other officials, including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, have called for Burris to resign.

Burris also faced structural barriers, including anemic fundraising. Recent polls have shown most Illinois voters do not support him, and he has repeatedly changed his story about his dealings with Blagojevich.

Burris' decision not to run is the second major development in 2010 Illinois Senate race in as many days. On Wednesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — a top recruit who was wooed by the White House — announced that she would not run for Senate and instead would seek re-election.

Senate Democrats had long made clear they had little tolerance for a full bid from Burris. Other Illinois Democrats have also lined up for a chance to run for the full term.

First-term Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Christopher Kennedy, a Chicago businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson are all considering wading in.