Jesse Jackson Jr., or Senate Candidate 5 in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was going to visit the Rockford Register Star Editorial Board last week if the House wrapped up its vote on the auto bailout soon enough.

Jesse Jackson Jr., or Senate Candidate 5 in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was going to visit the Rockford Register Star Editorial Board last week if the House wrapped up its vote on the auto bailout soon enough.

Jackson was seeking newspaper endorsements in his bid to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. The Chicago Sun-Times did endorse him for the post.

I told Jackson’s rep it would be unlikely the Editorial Board would make an endorsement for the seat because we didn’t know all the potential candidates (I knew of seven) and we would probably not get a chance to interview them.

I added that I didn’t think we had much influence with the governor.

I said we’d still like to meet Jackson so we’d have a better idea of who he was if he did get the job.

Doesn’t look like that will happen.

In February I wrote a column about whom Blagojevich might pick for Obama’s seat and I theorized that he would pick himself so he could get away from the pressure in Illinois. I repeated that theory in a July column shortly after a survey showed he was the least popular governor in the United States and that his approval rating was 13 percent.

The criminal complaint said he considered appointing himself if he didn’t get enough bucks from any of the other candidates. If the allegations are correct, I was wrong about his motives.

It makes you wonder what else might have been for sale, which brings me to one of my favorite topics: state parks. After last week’s allegations, it would not be a stretch to think that the governor’s endgame with closing state parks was to sell them. When I floated that theory to colleagues, they dismissed it, saying the public backlash would be too great for him to ignore.

He already ignored thousands of petition signatures, pleas from other lawmakers and rallies across the state. He’s ignored calls from the president-elect on down for him to resign, so it does not seem he can be pressured by his peers or the public to do the right thing.

If you believe the charges against the governor, it also would explain why he’s been so slow to appoint a permanent director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Perhaps the bidding didn’t get high enough for him to replace Sam Flood, who has been acting director for about three years.

The governor and I share Chicago roots, something we would chat about during his infrequent visits to the News Tower. I grew up less than two miles from where the governor lives today.

The last time I visited the neighborhood it was a lot more upscale than when I lived there in the late ’50s and ’60s. The only deal-making I remember is who would play on what team in our pickup baseball games. The only pay-to-play I remember is how we used to have to pay for broken windows when one of our players hit a home run. The most profane word I heard until I entered eighth grade was “darn.” Really.

Hard to believe the neighborhood has changed that much.

Wally Haas is editorial page editor of the Rockford Register Star. His e-mail address is whaas@rrstar.com.