By Daniel Strauss - 04/10/13 11:27 PM EDT
Life seems a lot quieter now for Roland Burris after he ended his time in the Senate.
Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) appointed Burris (D-Ill.) to succeed President Obama after he first entered the White House. Immediately, observers and critics wondered if Burris had any part in Blagojevich’s attempt to auction off Obama’s former Senate seat. But Burris was cleared of any allegations and weathered the controversy over his appointment, eventually being seated in the chamber and serving out the rest of Obama’s term.
Burris talked to The Hill about his tenure in Congress and his life now.
Q: Who do you miss most in Congress?
I thoroughly enjoyed my two years there. I miss the camaraderie. I miss all the contact with the constituents. ... Being the only black senator, there were calls coming in for all types of assistance, from California to New York. Mostly they were issues that would impact the black community: summer jobs, grants for projects.
Q: What do you do in the evenings now that you no longer have to attend late-night votes?
I go home with my family. We sit down and have a good dinner.
Q: What do you do on election nights?
Sometimes, if I have a candidate in the race, I go to the candidate’s headquarters. We just had one in 2012 and there were a lot of local elections that I was involved in. ... I did a lot of defending of Obama on either national radio or interviews.
Q: Where were you on Nov. 4, 2012?
I have no idea. I was watching results for Obama somewhere.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?
Watching sports. I watch hockey. I watch basketball. The Blackhawks and the Bulls seem to be the teams to watch right now. They’re terrific. ... It’s going to be a struggle for the Bulls. ... Injuries have just riddled the Bulls, so I’m surprised they’re doing so well.
Q: Describe your life post-Congress in one word?
Q: What do you miss most about the Senate? What do you miss the least?
The least is the travel. Back and forth on those commercial planes — it takes me longer to travel from my home to O’Hare [Airport]. ... The other thing is maintaining two households.
Q: And what do you miss most?
The key part about it is I have an opportunity to try to improve the quality of life and American citizens in general.
Q: Two new replacement senators were recently appointed, both African-American — Democrat Mo Cowan of Massachusetts and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina. What advice do you have to give to them?
Well, I would be more happy with Mo. I don’t think I could give any advice to Tim because he’s on the ultra-conservative side. I don’t think our politics would mesh at all. I don’t think I have any for Mo because he’s only there for a few months.
Q: Who was your favorite senator?
[Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid[(D-Nev.)]. Because he was very supportive of me and he made sure that with all the controversy around me that I wouldn’t be treated any differently as a senator.
Q: What’s better about working in the private sector?
It’s apples and oranges. When you’re in the public sector, then you’re in the public eye and have to conduct yourself accordingly.
Q: Have you ever thought about running for office again? If so, which one?
Sure, I think about all the time, but will I do it? No.
Q: Tell me about your book.
It’s about my life, from my hometown in Centralia [Illinois] to the United States Senate. ... It will stop off at the Senate.
Q: Have you ever thought about writing fiction?
Not really, no.
Q: During your time in the Senate there were a number of caricatures of you. I’m wondering, which was your favorite? The most memorable one to me was the one of you on “Saturday Night Live” trying to sneak into the Senate.
It was “Saturday Night Live.” It was what they do. I laughed. I certainly didn’t get upset by it.