Patrick Fitzgerald will be a tough act to follow because of his unparalleled passion, dedication, commitment and professionalism. He came here from New York City without any political connections or party affiliation, and that enabled him to go after corrupt public officials in both parties without any political considerations. It also ensured that no one got a pass because of his or her clout, and the best symbol of that nonpartisan, apolitical approach is the two Illinois governors who are in jail today–one Republican, one Democrat. Some say Fitzgerald was overzealous–squeezing witnesses too hard or entrapping unsuspecting politicians with overly-aggressive surveillance tools–but that’s the only way you can deal with the insidious power of ‘the Chicago way’ or the ‘the Illinois way.’ Illinois is a slightly cleaner state today because of Pat Fitzgerald, and all of us owe him a debt of gratitude.
We should also say thank you one more time to former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald–no relation–for recruiting Pat from NYC. Let’s hope that Sen. Durbin makes an equally enlightened recommendation to President Obama for a replacement, and that Durbin considers going outside Illinois for another prosecutor without any ties to the local political parties because that, more than anything, gave Pat Fitzgerald the ability to fight corruption without pulling punches. He arrived here as a bachelor, and he leaves this job as a married father of two children. He’s earned the right to move on and we wish him the best.