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Rep. Gutierrez takes himself out of Senate race

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said he’s taken himself out of the running to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

“The Senate selection process has been tainted, and it is clear that we need a new process to fill the seat that will represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Gutierrez said in a statement. “I will not be a candidate in that process but rather look forward to returning to the House and continuing my fight for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Mr. Gutierrez was one of a number of people considered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat. The appointment is at the center of a federal investigation that alleges the governor was trying to auction the seat in exchange for political favors. Mr. Gutierrez, a Blagojevich ally who attended a political fundraiser for the governor on Dec. 5, isn’t accused of any wrongdoing and his aides said he hasn’t been contacted by federal officials about the probe.

“In no way did we ever discuss anything of an inappropriate nature,” Mr. Gutierrez said in his statement. He previously said he was interested only in filling the unexpired Senate term and had no plans to run for re-election in two years when Mr. Obama’s term expires.

Mr. Gutierrez attended an event last Friday night hosted by a group of prominent Chicago-area Latinos aimed at raising $100,000 in campaign contributions for Mr. Blagojevich.

A Gutierrez aide says the congressman attended the fundraiser only to speak to the governor about the Republic Windows & Doors sit-in and did not contribute money.

The event at O’Brien’s Restaurant in Old Town was held days before the governor was hit with a criminal complaint alleging that Mr. Blagojevich was trying to raise as much campaign cash as possible before stricter guidelines took effect—and was trying to auction the U.S. Senate seat.

Omar Duque, CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, helped organize the fundraiser but said the chamber group was not a sponsor. He said he was contacted about hosting the event months ago by the governor’s brother, Robert, who heads up Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign fund. READ FULL STORY

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