Jones Picked as New Sen. Pres.; Philip Backs Fitzgerald

Springfield, IL – After nearly ten years of Republican leadership in the Illinois Senate, a Chicago Democrat will take over the chamber come January.

Senate Democrats voted Senator Emil Jones to be the chamber's next president last night. Democrats will have control of both chambers of the legislature when the next General Assembly convenes in January. Jones will replace current Senate President Pate Philip.

Jones has been the leader of the Senate Democrats since 1993, and has been a state senator since 1983. He was also a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1973 to 1983.

Jones will be sworn in as senate president when the 93rd General Assembly opens on January eighth.

Meanwhile, Philip is coming to the defense of a fellow Republican. Pate Philip says criticism of by fellow Republicans U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald is unwarranted.

A feud over the new Abe Lincoln Library in Springfield has sparked GOP Congressman Ray LaHood, of Peoria, to even suggest Fitzgerald leave the party.

But Philip says he still backs Fitzgerald, calling him the most popular Republican in Illinois. Philip also says more moderate GOP candidates who want to challenge Fitzgerald in 2004 should beware because Republican primary votes lean conservative.

LaHood responds that Hastert is the most popular Republican in the state. He says he stands by his belief that the party would be better off with another Senate nominee in two years.