US Senate Race for Illinois - 2004

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Republican Candidates
Alan Keyes
Jack Ryan
John Borling
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria
Andy McKenna
Jim Oberweis
Steven Rauschenberger
Jonathan Wright
Antonio Davis-Fairman
John Cox
Patrick O'Malley
Jim Durkin

Democratic Candidates
Barack Obama
Gery Chico
Blair Hull
Estella Johnson-Hunt
Dan Hynes
Maria Pappas
Nancy Skinner
Joyce Washington
Frank Avila
Matt O'Shea
John Simmons

Color Codes:
Black - Potential Candidate
Green - Active Candidate
Red - Lost
Orange - Candidate has dropped out or is not running


MONDAY, AUGUST 1

IL Senate team launches ILGovernor.com to cover the Illinois Governor's Race.


Barack Obama is the next Senator from Illinois and the only African American currently in the Senate.


SUNDAY, AUGUST 8

ALAN KEYES ACCEPTS REPUBLICAN APPOINTMENT TO FACE OBAMA

Former Ambassador, Presidential Candidate, and Maryland Senatorial Candidate Alan Keys is packing his bags and moving to the "Land of Lincoln."

FRIDAY, JUNE 25

RYAN DROPS OUT OF RACE

Ryan Statement:

Thirteen months ago, I announced my determination to seek the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. I entered this race because I love my country and my home state of Illinois - and because I believe that one man, living for purposes larger than himself, can make a difference.

The media has gotten out of control. The fact that the Chicago Tribune sues for access to sealed custody documents and then takes unto itself the right to publish details of a custody dispute - over the objections of two parents who agree that the re-airing of their arguments will hurt their ability to co-parent their child and will hurt their child - is truly outrageous.

The debate between competing visions and philosophies is a vital one - one the voters of Illinois absolutely deserve. Elections, after all, are about choices. But it's clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race.

What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign - the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.

Accordingly, I am today withdrawing from the race.

To the 234,000 Republican voters who cast a ballot for me in March, to the thousands of supporters and volunteers who have invested in our campaign the two most precious resources they have - their time and their money - I say thank you. I will never be able to properly express the depth of my gratitude for the trust you placed in me.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert Statement:

Jack Ryan made the right decision. I know it must have been a difficult one.

The Illinois Republican Party is fortunate to have a number of talented and qualified candidates who would represent our state well in Washington, D.C. I am confident the party will select a candidate who will unite Republicans throughout this state and quickly launch a winning campaign based on substantive issues that are of importance to Illinois voters.

MSNBC: Ryan quits Senate bid over sex club allegations
SunTimes: Ryan drops out of Senate race
Leader: Ryan says he's out
BuzzFlash: GOP Hypocrite of the Week: Jack Ryan
Leader: More on conservative call: "Ryan: Some ears didn't want to hear"

THURSDAY, JUNE 24

Ryan Fiasco

Jack Ryan had dug a deep hole that may be impossible to climb out of.

RECENT UPDATES:
Sources: Ryan campaign explores exit strategy
CNN: Frist demurs on support for candidate
Coles County Leader: GOP courting Edgar to replace Ryan?

Background
Polls have shown Ryan running behind Obama somewhere in the range of 11-22 points. A difficult obstacle to overcome for any candidate.

Then the bombshell hit, but it was not really unexpected. On March 11th, a campaign staffer for candidate John Borling, released on his own, a statement that made three allegations, the third allegation in the list was:

He (Jack Ryan) took her (Jeri Lynn) to various clubs, specifically in New York, New Orleans, and Paris and coerced her to have sex in front of other people.

When this came out there was no way to verify the truth of the claims, because Ryan's custody papers were sealed. They were sealed initially because Ryan's celebrity wife had a stalker.

However, as soon as this happened a media firestorm erupted, hundreds of stories ran urging Jack to release the papers, and questioning the contents. Tribune columnist John Kass, wrote two days before the primary election:

Republican front-runner Jack Ryan is trying to keep his divorce files sealed. Rumors of what's in the files hound him.

I don't care about his divorce. I do care if he can be pressured with what's in the files. And if Ryan thinks the information in those files won't get out during the general election campaign, he's delusional.

In the five days between the allegations being made and the election, Ryan's poll numbers dropped 8-10 points.

On the day before the election the AP ran a story with the following quotes:

Several downstate Republican officials, while stopping short of calling for Ryan to release the information, said they fear details of Ryan's divorce will come out eventually.

"If he's the nomination of our party, there's no doubt that it's going to be disclosed. That's just the way things happen in politics," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria, who backs Andy McKenna in the Senate race.

"I've been specifically saying to everybody, whether it's the press or members of the Republican Party, that the stuff that surrounds the documents of my son, those are private," Ryan said.

Release of Documents

On Monday, Judge Robert Schnider of Superior Court in Los Angeles released a number of the documents that had been requested by the media, in a heavily redacted form. Smoking Gun posted copies on their site.

The pertinent excerpts are as follows:

Jeri Lynn Ryan:

"I made clear to Respondent that our marriage was over for me in the spring of 1998. On three trips, one to New Orleans, one to New York, and one to Paris, Respondent insisted that I go to sex clubs with him. They were long weekends, supposed 'romantic' getaways. ...

"The clubs in New York and Paris were explicit sex clubs. Respondent had done research. Respondent took me to two clubs in New York during the day. One club I refused to go in. It had mattresses in cubicles. The other club he insisted I go to. ... It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling. Respondent wanted me to have sex with him there, with another couple watching. I refused. Respondent asked me to perform a sexual activity upon him, and he specifically asked other people to watch. I was very upset. We left the club, and Respondent apologized, said that I was right and that he would never insist I go to a club again. He promised it was out of his system.

"Then during a trip to Paris, he took me to a sex club in Paris, without telling me where we were going. I told him I thought it was out of his system. I told him he had promised me would never go. People were having sex everywhere. I cried, I was physically ill. Respondent became very upset with me, and said it was not a 'turn on' for me to cry."

Jack Ryan:

"I should not have to respond to the ridiculous allegations Jeri Lynn makes in these two paragraphs. I was faithful and loyal to my wife throughout our marriage. I did arrange romantic getaways for us, but that did not include the type of activities she describes. We did go to one avant garde nightclub in Paris which was more than either one of us felt comfortable with. We left and vowed never to return.

"I feel very badly for Alex that his mother would mischaracterize our activities and try to libel me and our relationship in this manner. Jeri Lynn knows I have political aspirations, because I had them throughout our marriage. She attended many political functions with me and testified about them at her deposition.

"In addition, Jeri Lynn is a celebrity and it is extremely likely that the press will go to our public divorce file. Apparently, Jeri Lynn did not consider how Alex will feel about his parents or himself when he learns of this type of smut."

Reaction

Reaction at first was mixed, Rep. Ray LaHood almost immediately called for Ryan to drop out.  LaHood had previously endorsed Andy McKenna, and some said this was opportunistic.  The Hill reported the following:

Congressman LaHood is out of line,” said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, adding that “this is an allegation in a messy custody case.” He called the media “outrageous” for making more out of the case than, he said, it warrants.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who is retiring after one term and holds the seat Ryan is seeking, accused LaHood of attacking members of his own party to gain publicity.

Fitzgerald said the fifth-term congressman is little known outside his Peoria-based 18th District. “I always say, ‘Ray who?’” Fitzgerald said.

But at the same time other pols were working up a sweat.  Bernard Schoenburg reported:

Eric Robinson, a spokesman for Edgar, also did not comment on the idea of Edgar becoming a candidate, but Robinson indicated that Edgar feels Ryan misled him about the contents of the documents.

The two had a brief conversation over the weekend, before the release of the documents.

"Mr. Ryan told the governor that he took his wife to a nightclub in Paris, and when they got there, it turned out to be what Mr. Ryan called avant-garde," Robinson said. "He said his wife felt uncomfortable. She cried. He felt uncomfortable, and they left."

When Edgar later heard a news story about what was in the documents, Robinson said, "He said, 'That's a different situation than what was described to me.'"

A GOP source also said party chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka was "most unhappy with the fact that he (Ryan) was not forthright about what was in those files."

Ryan told her before the March primary that there would be nothing embarrassing in them.

"She took him at his word," the source said.

The Trib later reported on Topinka:

"It was a two-part question and very clear cut--I don't believe it would be subject to mischaracterization or misunderstanding," Topinka said. "I said, very specifically, twice, so that I would hear it twice, `Is there anything in your divorce document that would be personally embarrassing to you or to the Republican Party?' He said `no' both times."

Topinka said there was "nothing" in her conversation with Ryan about information that would preclude him from running for the U.S. Senate. "The words `U.S. Senate' never came up," she said.

So at this point his reputation was in question.  Not only were questions being raised about his moral character, but people started getting more upset, accusing Ryan of lying to them.

On the Illinois Leader, a conservative webmag, an open letter was posted by a young supporter named Jacob Swain.  Swain was a volunteer coordinater for Ryan and has been a staunch defender through the entire race.  Excerpts from the letter:

Since August of last year I have been an adamant supporter of yours. I believed that you were our best chance of keeping Conservative Republican representation in the U.S. Senate from Illinois. When you visited Southern Illinois in March of this year and were asked pointedly whether or not the allegations of sexual impropriety were in the recently released divorce documents you stated, “No. Nothing like that.”

Time and time again you denied that these papers had anything to do with sexual impropriety, but instead said that you did not want the papers opened to protect your son. We, as your surrogates, spent the last two weeks of the campaign calming fearful Republicans with promises that it was nothing more than last minute witch-hunting and that it would all be resolved soon.

Weeks turned into months and the situation was not resolved, as we had been promised. After the poorly chosen Justin Warfel tactics were brought to light, and after originally defending those tactics, I decided my time was better spent elsewhere.

I couldn’t help but be ashamed last night as I fielded calls from rattled Republicans whom I expended my limited political capital to bring on board during the primary campaign. What do I say? The promises that these papers were closed due to their content surrounding your son proved to be false, and I’m left with egg on my face, looking like the naďve idealist I have so often been accused of being.

Eric Zorn published a scathing article entitled, "Ryan's effort to `protect' son was self-serving":

Does all this material in the files have to do with the health situation that we spoke about?

He remembered our conversation clearly and said, very directly, man to man, dad to dad, that yes, it did. He was doing what any father would do.

Now it turns out that he was lying, not just to me, but to all the reporters and Republican honchos whom he had assured that there were no personally embarrassing allegations in those divorce records.

In fact, as we learned Monday, Ryan's ex-wife alleged in divorce filings that in 1998 he took her to sex clubs in New Orleans, Paris and New York, the last featuring "cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling," she said.

He gambled his son's innocence on the notion that he could have it both ways--as Jack Ryan private citizen whose alleged kinks nobody cares about, and as Jack Ryan candidate for high public office whose life automatically becomes an open book--and he lost. The safe bet, of course, would have been to remain an investment-banker-turned-schoolteacher and not run for Senate.

Numerous similar articles abound including one just published by Human Events called "Lyin' Ryan."

Jay Leno cracked on his show:

In the senate race in Illinois, the Republican candidate Jack Ryan just went through an ugly divorce and in court papers, his wife accused him of taking her to sex clubs where he tried to make her have sex with him in front of strangers. Aren't Republicans the family values people? That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats on family values. Democrat politicians cheat on their wives. Republicans cheat too -- but they bring the wife along. Make it a family event! They include the whole family!

Fallout

Speaker Hastert had a fundraiser today with Jack, but canceled last night, which caused the lobbyists who organized the Ryan event to postpone it.

The Sun Times is reporting that Ryan's other DC fundraiser has been canceled as well:

Ryan canceled a trip to Washington today where he had planned to appear with Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and attend a fund raiser headlined by Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Lynn Sweet quotes an inside source as say that "Everything is on hold" and "He’s reassessing."  Columnist Rick Pearson on WNTA said he thinks Ryan will pull out in a matter of hours, and Eric Zorn said he would not be surprised if it happened in the next 24 hours.

If history repeats itself, unless Ryan does back out of this race, the story will not go away quickly.  When Blair Hull ran into a similar scandal, it took a little over two weeks to fully develop.

Resources

Slate has in interesting piece: The Republican Sex Club and Why Unseal the Ryan Divorce Papers?

Saint Louis Today on the State Central Committees role: Illinois GOP committee is divided on Ryan's future

Illinois GOP Website: List of Illinois Republican State Central Committee Party Officers

Zorn is doing a fantastic job keeping track of all the coverage: Zorn Notebook

Archpundit is posting play by play as the action unfolds.

polis also has a good wrap-up.

CBS Poll showing early effects of divorce documents.

Send comments and news to jc@ilsenate.com
 

MONDAY, JUNE 7

Reagan Tributes

Jack Ryan - Today America has lost one of its finest sons. Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, the proud son of Tampico and Dixon, Illinois, passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease - and with him goes the undying gratitude of literally hundreds of millions of people, both here and abroad, whose lives are freer, fuller, and richer because of him and his determination to commit America to victory in the Cold War against Soviet communism.

Ronald Reagan's life is itself a testament to the notion that one man can make a difference. "There's no limit to what a man achieve if he doesn't mind who gets the credit," he famously said - and then he went out and proved that a life given to service, given to things larger than oneself, earns rewards both temporal and eternal.

Whether it was his fierce determination to see liberty secured and spread across the globe, his personal courage in triumphing over an assassin's bullet, or his unfailing grace in both victory and defeat, President Reagan lived his life the way we would all want our children to live - with humor, honor, and humility, with courage, character, and class.

"The American dream," said Ronald Reagan, "is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become." As long as we remember that simple eternal truth, Ronald Reagan's spirit will live within us - and while there may be mourning in America today, it will always be morning in America.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mrs. Reagan and the rest of their family.


Barack Obama - Ronald Reagan left Illinois as a young man, but maintained his Midwestern sensibilities throughout his long and storied life.

While I disagreed with many of his policies, I, like most Americans, admired President Reagan's eloquence, optimism and unshakable faith in the ideal of America as a beacon of hope and freedom.

Tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Nancy and his family.

All of America remembers the grace and courage with which President Reagan told the nation of his diagnosis of the dreaded affliction of Alzheimer’s disease 10 years ago.

Let us hope one of the lasting parts of Ronald Reagan’s legacy is a renewed commitment to finding a cure for this horrible disease so that no family must endure the pain the Reagan family has known.
 

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 4

Jack Ryan holds fundraiser with VP Dick Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney will be the guest of Jack Ryan for a fundraising reception on Friday, June 4, 2004 in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers. The Vice President is expected to speak at approximately 6:30 p.m.  Democrats are organizing a protest against, "Cheney's role in Halliburton's no-bid contracts in Iraq."  Democrats are encouraged to, "Bring a sign and show Dick Cheney that he's in John Kerry --and Barack Obama -- territory!"

Obama gets complimentary write-up by NY Times

NY Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert gave Obama a nice write-up in todays paper:

He's got a million-dollar smile and he's charismatic. At the moment he has a substantial lead in the polls. If that lead holds and he wins in November, he'll be only the third African-American to take a seat in the Senate since Reconstruction.

Mr. Obama has not ducked the issues. He has opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, and he delivered a stirring antiwar speech at a rally in October 2002. He supports the war in Afghanistan. He believes the Bush tax cuts went too far, and he makes that clear even in appearances before wealthy audiences. He said: "I tell them, `Look, I think we need to roll back those tax cuts that benefited you. You don't need them. Let's talk about what we could do with that money.' "

However this election goes, Mr. Obama's effort to connect in a more than superficial way with people across ethnic, economic and geographic lines should serve as a template for future campaigns in both parties. Politics that are increasingly ruthless in a country that is increasingly diverse is a recipe for disaster.

Jack Ryan is dealt a mixed bag in divorce record case

SunTimes reports:

Retired Superior Court Judge Isabel Cohen, who had been appointed a referee, recommended some of the documents in the proceedings remain under seal, others be made public and still others be released in a redacted form, said media attorney Susan Seager.

Trib reports, in "Keep Ryan records closed, judge says":

A California court referee Thursday recommended keeping sealed documents in U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan's divorce file, saying the interests of Ryan's son trump constitutional rights and the right to public access to court records.

The report by Isabel R. Cohen, a retired family law judge, also sided with a judge's earlier proposal to unseal a number of documents in Ryan's 1999 divorce from actress Jeri Ryan but recommended fully unsealing only 10 of at least 43 documents sealed in the file.

Dan Hynes heavily in debt

Hynes recently sent a letter to his supporters

Dear Friends:
It has been two months since my campaign for the U.S. Senate concluded. Despite the tireless efforts of thousands of friends and supporters like you, we fell short of our goal on Election Day. Nevertheless, I am proud of what we achieved in terms of voicing critical issues and shaping the debate about the future of our country. As much as you have already done, I find it difficult to ask you for help once again. However, the massive expenses of the campaign have left us with a substantial debt that we are attempting to retire. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Christina and I will never forget your support and your friendship.
Dan

TUESDAY, MARCH 16

Obama wins by a wide margin, Ryan wins with tough competition

U.S. Senate (Dem)
  11504 of 11745 Precincts (98%)
  Barack Obama   640,707 53%
  Dan Hynes   288,176 24%
  Blair Hull   130,944 11%
  Maria Pappas   73,485 6%
  Gery Chico   52,105 4%
  Nancy Skinner   15,651 1%
  Joyce Washington   12,973 1%

 

U.S. Senate (Rep)
  11504 of 11745 Precincts (98%)
  Jack Ryan   226,679 36%
  Jim Oberweis   149,198 24%
  S. Rauschenberger   124,433 20%
  Andy McKenna   93,790 15%
  Jonathan Wright   16,697 3%
  John Borling   12,889 2%
  Norm Hill   5,489 1%
  Chirinjeev Kathuria   4,920 1%

The turnout illustrates the tough time that Jack Ryan has ahead of him.  Democratic ballots outnumbered Republican ballots 2-1. 

MONDAY, MARCH 15

Obama up, Jack up in the air

Barack Obama has continued to cement his lead.  In the latest poll Obama holds an incredible 30 point lead over his second place rival, Dan Hynes.  The Survey USA poll while not always the most accurate poll shows Obama's numbers close to doubling since he received the endorsement of both the Trib and Sun-Times (among many others).  Hynes numbers have held completely steady.  A Copley Poll released over the weekend shows Obama with double the votes as Hynes, with Obama at 37 and Hynes at 18.  Also not boding well for Hynes is the fact that snow showers downstate could create lower voter turnout in the region he is the strongest.

Jack Ryan has had an interesting two weeks to say the least.  A quick search on Google news pulls up 180 stories on Ryan's divorce issues, Headlines include:


GOP candidate faces divorce questions
Ryan fends off fresh questions as Senate race winds down
Ryan pressed to divulge custody papers
Illinois GOP Senate Candidate Conceals Divorce Records

Perhaps most damaging was the Kass column on Sunday:

Republican front-runner Jack Ryan is trying to keep his divorce files sealed. Rumors of what's in the files hound him.

I don't care about his divorce. I do care if he can be pressured with what's in the files. And if Ryan thinks the information in those files won't get out during the general election campaign, he's delusional.

One candidate, though, with vast experience with government budgets, has stood up to the bosses of his own party, including the slick Kjellander. This conservative is trying to purge the state GOP of the Kjellander types.

Most papers in the state have endorsed him, including the Chicago Tribune. But he's a decided underdog.

He's not rich or handsome like Ryan. He's somewhat nerdy. But he publicly stood up against the combine to reform the GOP. That's good enough for me.

He is state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin).

While Jack Ryan has been feeling the heat he still has a solid lead at this point.  The Copley poll showed Ryan with 45% and Rauschenburger at 7%.  The latest Survey USA poll released today is as follows:

Candidate WBBM
Ryan 33
Oberweis 24
Rauschenberger 21
McKenna 13
Borling 2
Other 4
Undecided 3

While Ryan maintains a good lead the momentum seems to be shifting in Rauschenburgers favor.  Unfortunately, for Rauschenburger it may not be soon enough, with the election less than 20 hours from being over, Steve does not have much more time to get his message out.  Also, while Ryan is losing some support, the field is so split that anything he loses will be split between three or four other candidates, leaving no single candidate with a significant gain.  Rauschenburger also polls highest downstate where turnout could be lower due to the weather.

Ryan has never trailed in a poll since August and we believe there is little chance that another candidate can win at this point.  While Rauschenburger has a number of surrogates out stumping for him, and the latest poll numbers will certainly help, Ryan has set up a dozen call centers and has a mass of volunteers and staffers that will be working to get out the vote as well.  With Oberweis in second place, Jack Ryan launched, as far as we know, his first attack piece. The mailer was a damaging story written by Steve Neal which indites Oberweis as flipping on important issues like abortion, bringing up the now infamous comparison of pro-lifers to the Taliban.

If the divorce story had broken a week or two earlier it could be a different ball game.  Ryan has a little time to respond to the allegations one way or another, and voters don't seem ready to condemn him in mass at this point in time.

Late Breaking News from elsewhere down the ballot . . .

The Kathuria campaign has released a video stating, "We are rapidly advancing and making the mainstream candidates very nervous."

The Skinner campaign is quite punctual, by 12:05 Tuesday morning I received a message alerting me "the Democratic primary is today."

I received the first message of the season from Jonathan Wright on Sunday.  Interestingly enough, a short time later I received a message from Doug Ibendahl, co-founder of the Republican Young Professionals.  In the letter he endorsed Wright and said his gut feeling was that Ryan would not be able to make it through November.

For those of you looking to write in a candidate, Estella Johnson-Hunt has a nice tutorial on her website.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10

Resources
United Power for Action and Justice released over 20,000 copies of their candidate guide in their churches, mosques, and other organizations.  Every candidate except Oberweis met with the organization.

Collective Interest, a left leaning organization has put together a radio station with issue statements from some of the candidates.  The only Democrats involved were Nancy Skinner and Joyce Washington. Republicans Ryan, Kathuria, Borling and former candidate Andy Martin participated.  Visit their site at http://www.collectiveinterest.net.

SATURDAY, MARCH 6

The Buzz
This race is certainly picking up steam and gaining attention across Illinois and the country.  The race was mentioned twice in the "The Note" one of the most read political roundups in the nation. LINK  Their lead paragraph:

As we head into what will most probably be a relatively quiet, mad-less March political weekend, chew on this: which leading U.S. Senate candidate was once married to Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager?

Later they followed with this:

We lament together with Chuck Todd … why, oh, why, does no one pay attention to Senate races?

From today's Chicago Tribune: "The Republican and Democratic races for the U.S. Senate are rapidly devolving in the closing days from a debate on the economy, security and other vital national issues into a detailed examination of alleged character flaws arising from failed domestic relationships of the frontrunners."

"With less than two weeks left in a primary campaign in which all candidates have had trouble captivating voters, Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan now find themselves concentrating on overcoming mounting questions about their behavior resulting from their divorces."

The story also made the front page of FoxNews.com, "Divorce Front and Center in Illinois Senate Race"  They have a nice picture of Jack Ryan hugging a supporter.

This site has seen a huge spike in traffic.  Over the month of February traffic more than doubled to 450,000 hits, and this Wednesday alone we received over 35,000 hits, a single day record.

Momentum and Movement
Jack Ryan continues to solidify his front runner status.  The latest poll released yesterday showed shows Ryan had 44 percent, followed by Oberweis at 18 percent, Andy McKenna at 10 percent, and Rauschenberger at 4.  We suspect Rauschenberger's numbers to end up slightly higher since he is likely to get a higher turnout, but the field is so splintered that it would take a miracle or major scandal to rock this boat.

Barack Obama seems to be benefiting from three factors:

1. The endorsements of both the Tribune and the Sun-Times

2. The release of a major ad campaign.

3. The Hull divorce

However, one alert reader noted Barack's momentum may be because of his superb musical team.  Readers may remember the hit classic, "Do the Rauschenburger." Obama has countered with the stunning, "Obama for Senate Theme" with stellar lyrics such as:

Barack Obama, oh yeah, say it again
He's solid as a rock, Barack Obama
If you believe like I believe that children are our future
You're ready to move forward
Instead of things being like they use to be . . .

Hull is not taking the allegations/rumors sitting down, as I read the Sun-Times story which shows Obama leading in the polls, the story is once again framed by Hull ads announcing there are two sides to every story.  Hull has put together an entire mini-site devoted to rebutting the abuse claims against him at http://www.blairhull.com/suntimes/.  It gives a decent explanation of the facts along with statements from his first wife, fellow candidate Nancy Skinner, his children (who have taken out full page ads defending him), and others.  They all seem to say that Hull is not a violent man, this was simply an issue of money, etc . .

Hull's adult children have really taken up the cause, at the WTTW debate Maria Pappas said the she had been stopped in the bathroom before the forum by one of Hull’s adult daughters, “Ms. Pappas, I’m Courtney Hull,’ please don’t beat up on my father tonight,” Pappas said Hull’s daughter said. “I listened to her tell me her thoughts on what went on in their house," Pappas said, "and I really don’t think anyone should demand that he get out of the race.”

While there is absolutely no evidence at this point to suggest that Hull had a pattern of abusing his wife, in many people's eyes it makes him look silly and immature.  One female reader of this column remarked:

I was reading this again today [Hull's Divorce Records] and it is just too funny..  Maybe I just grew up in small town America and never heard about this kind of stuff happening, but come on, this is so immature, good grief.

Bottom line, this race is completely up for grabs.  Most polls are basically showing a statistical dead heat between Obama, Hynes, and Hull.  The factors that will play into this race:

Obama - Endorsements will help, however Pappas ad run could dig into his Chicago and progressive support.  MJ just donated 10k to the Obama campaign and as of Feb 26th Obama had close to $1.3 million on hand, twice that of rival Hynes.  If the Chicago vote is split between Hynes, Pappas, Chico, and some Skinner and Washington, he will have a tough time overcoming Hulls lead in the southern part of the state.

Hynes - Have to agree with the Trib that the fact there won't be a contested presidential primary in Illinois bodes well for Hynes.  As the son of Tom Hynes, he has massive on the ground presence.  Low turnout will boost his chances.  Also, significant labor support and Hull's declining political fortunes should help.

Hull - $5 Million dollars won't hurt.  Hull will be able to outspend in the last week of the campaign any of his opponents 5-1.  Turnout will be crucial.  Also, the divorce issue seems to be abating, in a race that may hang on a 1 or 2 percent margin, the amount of media play he gets will certainly play a huge role.

Oberweis and Immigration
Oberweis is being taken to task for his immigration stance from both Republicans and Democrats.  The Times has a story, "Rivals hit Oberweis on immigration":

Retired Gen. John Borling accused rival Republican Senate candidate Jim Oberweis of "carnival barkering" and "demagoguery" Thursday for his "strident" criticism of illegal immigrants.

State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger said, "I can't vote for people that demagogue issues. I can't vote for people that divide us to try to make progress on politics."

The liberal blog Polis commented on the helicopter ad:

Those Oberweis copter commercials may be the funniest thing on tv these days (save Arrested Development). Forget the fact that his numbers are said to be way off, just having him spout off that anti-immigrant rhetoric over the noise of copter blades is high comedy. The only thing that would improve on this would be if he was flying over the Mexican border with a rifle picking off crossing illegals. "Even if I stay up here and shoot all day, I can't make a dent out of the thousands who are stealing YOUR jobs!"

O'Bama
Last, what would our politicians do without the ever so helpful suggestions of  people like Burt Constable in the Daily Herald:

The casual voter hears the name Barack Obama, and decides it sounds a bit like Iraq Osama. If I were his campaign manager, I would add an R to his first name to make it "Barrack," as in the lodging for soldiers, such as those brave, patriotic Americans who won World War II.

Then I would add a simple apostrophe to his last name. By going with "O'Bama," the Harvard-educated, Christian husband and father could garner the Irish vote, and appeal to transplanted southerners.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28

Endorsements

Barack Obama had a big weekend.  First the Sun-Times released their endorsement of Barack:

Obama is a rising star with impressive political skills and a keen intellect. A constitutional law professor and civil rights attorney who has served seven years in the state Senate, Obama has the hands-on experience that, were he elected, would shorten the time it would take for him to become a major player on the national stage.

Obama has demonstrated an ability to forge partnerships across party lines by enacting key legislation, such as bringing together the Chicago Board of Education, the Chicago Teacher's Union and school choice advocates to expand charter schools and increase accountability for all school districts. This ability to work across the aisle is a critical need for Illinois because Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, able in many respects, is a fiery partisan. That limits his effectiveness.

Our endorsement goes to Obama, who seems best poised to overtake Hull. Obama's background and experience can trump Hull's money. Obama has a compelling personal story. He is a man who has struggled to understand the landscape in two worlds -- one white, one black. Born to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, reared in Hawaii and Indonesia, Obama could be the man for this time and for this place.

Then the Tribune endorsed Obama (it will be in the Sunday paper):

Obama rises above this field as one of the strongest Democratic candidates Illinois has seen in some time.

Barack Obama has a proven record of spirited, principled and effective leadership in the legislature, and he is the only Democrat in this race who can make that claim

Interestingly, both editorial boards took the opportunity not only to applaud Obama but rebuke/caution against current frontrunner and millionaire, Blair Hull.  The Tribune, "[Hull] has inserted himself in the Democratic Party largely by showering money on political candidates.  Is this the resume Democrats want to offer to the state in November?"  The Sun-Times followed up:

Blair Hull, a multimillionaire businessmen who has vowed to spend up to $20 million of his own fortune to win this primary race, lacks the political experience needed to ensure that Illinois gets its fair share of federal funding. He often neglected to even vote in elections. And with virtually no volunteers, Hull's campaign is out of step with the ideals at the center of election campaigns. Hull surged in the polls thanks to a TV ad blitz funded by his wealth.

While we are on the subject of Hull . . .

While Hull seems to be holding thus far in the polls (see below) he may be taking on some water.  Eric Zorn started the drumbeat and has been pounding away on the story of Hull's divorce, order of protection, subsequent cover up, and the final release of records.  Here is the timeline:

Feb 15 - Trib does bio piece on Hull notes order of protection Brenda Sexton his former wife took out on him during their second divorce.

Feb 19 - Zorn: Public entitled to know about Hull's History

Feb 20 - Hull releases statement, "We had an argument and Brenda called the police . . .The police report from that night says that I hit her shin. I would never intentionally harm Brenda, and I regret the incident."

Feb 22 - Bernard Schoenburg: Special-interest foe Hull helps ex-wife land state job details the Illinois Film Office job Blair got his ex-wife, also details some of the order of protection info.

Feb 26 - Zorn: The real Hull slips out from behind the ads

Feb 27 - Hull and Sexton agree to release previously sealed divorce records:

I am in great fear if this court does not enter a protective order in my favor and against Blair, as well as exclude him from my residence in which I am residing with my child, (name withheld) age 11, Blair will continue to inflict, mental emotional and physical abuse upon me as he has done in the past.

Blair is a violent man with an ungovernable temper, and the violence recently been escalating.

At this point, I fear for my emotional and physical well being, as well as that of my daughter.

Feb 28 - Zorn: Hull's biggest mistake isn't in divorce file Trib: Hull's ex-wife called him violent man in divorce file and the Times puts their crime reporter Frank Main on the story: Hull's stormy divorce records unsealed:

Blair Hull in Brenda Sexton's words:

*Sept. 25, 1997: "Blair threw a remote control across the room and called me a 'f------ c---.' "

*Dec. 2, 1997: "Blair and I were calmly talking about trust issues, and I remarked everyone has a trust issue with him. Blair suddenly responded by saying, 'You evil bitch. You are a f------ c---,' repeatedly. He then hung on the canopy bar of my bed, leered at me and stated, 'Do you want to die? I am going to kill you, you f------ bitch.' "

*Jan. 12, 1998: "He went ballistic on me, started cursing, told me I was a 'f------ c---' and 'shark' and kept threatening that he would punch me in the face."

*Feb. 9, 1998: "He then held one of my legs and punched me extremely hard in the left shin. After that, he swung at my face with his fists a couple of times in a menacing manner just missing me."

We will have to wait and see how this turns out.  For her part, Brenda Sexton says she now supports Hull's candidacy and that the two are friends.  In fact, the Sun-Times reported on the 17th:

Dem senatorial candidate Blair Hull, who has been married and divorced three times -- twice to the same woman -- showed up with that woman, Illinois Film Office honcho Brenda Sexton, at a fund-raiser for John Kerry this weekend at Lou and Susan Manilow's house.

It caused tongues to wag, although the two are now just good friends.

Hull for his part, is busy touting the endorsement he received from former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins of Illinois' 7th District and his "Title IX Dad of the Year" award.


Polls

Jack Ryan continues to pull ahead in every poll released.  WBBM released a poll the 24th showing Jack! with 46%:

Candidate WBBM
Ryan 46
Oberweis 14
McKenna 13
Rauschenberger 10
Borling 3
Other 3
Undecided 5


Most interesting poll yet is one done by the Metro Chicago Information Center, conducted from Feb 20th through the 22nd.  It shows Hull with a 7 point lead at 27% and Ryan with a 22 point lead over Oberweis.  Further dissection of this poll coming soon.  However, two things I will point out now to illustrate the work Barack has ahead of him.  First, when asked what their impression (favorable/unfavorable/neutral) of Obama, 62% said they did not know, second only to Nancy Skinner.  Secondly, Obama picked up 36% in Chicago, an easy first place, but downstate registered a measly 8% compared to Hull's 44%.  His endorsements should start to ease this problem and he has also just started a major  TV and radio push.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 122

Democrat Senate Debate Monday February 23, 7:30 p.m. One-hour LIVE debate - WBBM 780AM.

Blair Hull continues to receive good news, with the latest poll showing him with a 10% lead over his nearest competitors.  Jack Ryan broke out with an even larger lead, 41% over Oberweis with 17%.  This from the a Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,500 voters conducted the 19th.  The Sun-Times ran it frontpage, "Wealthy hopefuls lead Senate race":

Hull -- a trader who has pumped $24 million of his own money into his Democratic race -- leads with 27 percent, ahead of state Sen. Barack Obama and state Comptroller Dan Hynes, who each had 17 percent.

On the Republican side, Ryan -- a former investment banker who has dipped into his wallet for nearly $2.6 million -- leads dairy and investment magnate Jim Oberweis, 41 percent to 17 percent.

Democrat Gery Chico calls Hull's spending "obscene'' and likens his Senate bid to an advertising campaign for "soap, butter and cars.''

"Basically what we're seeing is a marketing campaign. There's a very eerie correlation between that campaign and the sale of products,'' he said.

Obama said he wasn't too concerned about Hull's wealth.

"I don't begrudge extraordinarily wealthy people spending their money. But what I do know is that although you can buy television time, you can't buy a track record and you can't buy the experience that's necessary to hit the ground running when you get to the United States Senate,'' Obama said.

Hull has released some information regarding the order of protection filed in his divorce from Brenda Sexton:

Facing increasing questions from the media, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Blair Hull acknowledged Friday that ex-wife Brenda Sexton obtained two orders of protection against him in 1998, both stemming from a single domestic dispute in which he was accused of striking her in the shin.

"I would never intentionally harm Brenda, and I regret the incident," Hull said in a statement.

"These events were all part of a tough period for Brenda and me," Hull wrote. "We both said painful things to each other that I am sure we both wish we could take back. I regret those months, and that night in particular, as well as the legal posturing that resulted. Most importantly, Brenda and I are now friends."

The Pentagraph has a story on Hull's gold mine, according to the paper Blair Hull is the only candidate known to have a stake in a gold mine:

Hull, who has a personal net worth exceeding $300 million, appears to be the only one with a gold mine.

Located in Sierra County, Cal., the Original Sixteen to One Mine is a historically significant, but financially struggling venture.

Michael Miller, who is president of the business, said Friday that Hull's involvement is "totally passive." Miller and Hull were roommates in the 1960s when the two attended University of California-Santa Barbara. Miller said Hull invested in the company in the early 1970s.
 

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19

Blair Hull held the frontrunner status for less than a week before the allegations started to fly.  On the 15th, the Tribune published a bio piece on Hull that read more like a soap opera than a political resume:

As his financial success magnified, his private life grew more complicated. His 29-year marriage ended in 1994, and the publicity-averse Hull nevertheless became involved in a series of high-profile romances.

He married well-known real estate broker Brenda Sexton, divorced and then remarried her. Their relationship even made news broadcasts when Hull proposed the second time by way of a Gold Coast billboard. Hull said Sexton's publicist oversold the story to the media.

As his second marriage to Sexton collapsed in 1998, Sexton filed an order of protection against him, public records show. Hull won't talk about the divorce in detail, saying only that it was "contentious" and that he and Sexton are friends.

In the late 1990s, Hull made local gossip columns again when he dated auctioneer and socialite Leslie Hindman. And in 2003, he became engaged to another woman, Jennifer Goodlove, but that relationship quickly ended. After the breakup, Hull allowed Goodlove to remain in his $2.7 million Old Town home and he moved to a house a few blocks away.

Tragically, Goodlove's roommate died in December in that house's garage after being overcome with carbon monoxide. Authorities found that the carbon monoxide originated from a leak in a pool heater and ruled the death accidental.

Eric Zorn published a story entitled "Public entitled to know about Hull's history" that delves more into the issue of the order of protection filed against him by his former wife:

As [Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Blair Hull's] second marriage to [Brenda] Sexton collapsed in 1998, Sexton filed an order of protection against him, public records show. Hull won't talk about the divorce in detail, saying only that it was `contentious' and that he and Sexton are friends

In asking for an order of protection, "you have to be specific with the judge about the date and the nature of the abuse," said Megan Rosado, a training coordinator at the Chicago Abused Women Coalition. "You can't simply say, `I'm afraid of him' or `he threatened me.'"

That Hull's ex-wife filed for an order of protection "doesn't necessarily mean he abused her," he said.

Let's hope he didn't. Domestic violence is a terrible scourge, and its perpetrators are of low character by definition.

It's not a "personal matter" when questions about the circumstances behind a request for an order of protection hang over the head of a man who is at or near the top of the polls in the race for his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate.

CBS 2 ran the story on the evening news, and published it on their site (Hull Faces Questions of Domestic Abuse):

Were there grounds for her to seek the order of protection?

“This really doesn't play a role in the Senate race,” Hull said. “This has to do with between Brenda Sexton and me. I think the real issue is that she supports my candidacy. We remain friends.”

When CBS 2 asked Sexton if Hull had ever threatened violence against her, she replied, "I've said all I'm going to say."

When we asked Hull if he had ever threatened to harm his ex-wife or ever threatened violence against her, Hull replied: “I think this is an issue, it's a private matter. And it doesn't belong in a Senate race,” Hull said.

Oberweis recently put out a mailing encouraging Republican voters to support his immigration views:

I’m the only candidate who’s taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and I’m leading the charge to find ways to fight violations of our immigration laws.  As a result of illegal immigration we live in a society of increasingly threatened national security, higher crime, loss of jobs, competition for basic social services, divisive cultural and linguistic problems and longer waits and higher rates for healthcare.

Read the full letter (Oberweis Immigration Letter).  Included in the packet was a Times story by Roeser entitled, "Oberweis milks immigration issue."

Jack Ryan released a new ad today, which is probably the best ad yet ((Watch "Money for Nothing"):

doorbell

Doctor: hi, I am Dr. Jasper, I'm collecting to build a telescope on a volcanic peak in Mexico

slam door

Young Female: The endangered aqua-culture off the coast of West Virginia

slam door

Man with foreign accent: We can count on you to subsidize foreign governments who want to move American jobs overseas, yes?

Jack Ryan: Every home in America pays 21,000 in taxes to fund ridiculous programs like these, if you are tired of the government wasting your money, vote for me, Jack Ryan

doorbell

Jack Ryan: That better be the pizza guy

The Trib ran a blip on the ad (Ryan uses humor to distinguish ads).
 

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14

CBS2/WBBM released another poll showing Jack Ryan and Blair Hull leading in their respective primaries.  While this poll was again taken by SurveyUSA through an automated system and is not regarded as highly reliable, its interesting to compare this months numbers against last months numbers:

  Hulll Hynes Obama Pappas
This Month 29 19 19 14
Last Month 19 20 19 18
 
  Ryan Oberweis McKenna Rauschenberger
This Monthh 35 21 14 7
Last Month 29 17 14 7

As you will see, while Ryan and Hull percentages jumped, Hynes, Obama, McKenna, and Rauschenberger have remained constant. (Download Poll Results in PDF)

Hull has been continually gaining momentum, showing that his record breaking $18 million spending spree has not been wasted.  Since August he has raised his poll numbers from 3%, to 10% in October, to 19% in January and now 29%.  This movement (along with a large bank account) makes Blair Hull a real player for this seat and turns this race into a true four way race between Hull, Hynes, Obama, and Pappas with Chico still hanging in with a respectable chunk of the vote.  This makes the possibility of winning this race with less than 30% of the vote a real possibility.  This raises the question of whether there will be any consolidation in the ranks.  If any of the top five candidates dropped out of the race it would have the potential to dramatically alter the landscape.

The Trib has a lengthy piece on the extent of Hull's spending:

Over the last three months of 2003, Hull employed nearly 150 people, campaign records show. Operating without the volunteers of some other candidates, Hull has been forced to pay not only his regular staff, but also the people who do work that in many campaigns is performed by an army of passionate volunteers. People who plant Hull yard signs, for example, are paid $75 per day.

For every public event, Hull totes along an army of choreographed supporters who dress in T-shirts and baseball-style hats emblazoned with such catchy slogans as "Give `em Hull." When asked why they support him, one supporter echoes another with a variation of the same answer: Hull's ambitious government-run health care plan is the answer to the country's health care crisis.

As for Hull himself, when he's not in his chartered jet, the candidate criss-crosses the state in a $40,000 recreational vehicle nicknamed "Hull on Wheels."

Hull has been turning up the level of mailings and advertisements recently.  Doug Goodman, a sports writer for the Rockford Register Star recently detailed a letter he received from Hull:

I wanted to note I received a letter at home this week from the "Blair Hull for U.S. Senate" campaign. I'm sure all hunters in the state received one.

Printed on the envelope were the slogans "Hunters for Hull" and "Join a Great Friend of Our Sport." Inside was a "Hunters for Hull" bumper sticker and a letter pointing out Hull's support on hunting-related issues.

The letter said Hull recently went turkey hunting in Lawrence County and deer hunting in Hamilton County, and he owns two guns.

Sounds like a candidate hunters can get behind.

Probability = 1/(1 + exp (-1 x (-3.9659056 + (General Election Weight x 1.92380219) +
(Re-Expressed Population Density x .00007547) + (Re-Expressed Age x .01947370) +
(Total Primaries Voted x -.60288595) + (% Neighborhood Ethnicity x -.00717530.))))

Thought your years of algebra were over? Think again, the formula above was given to Atlantic Monthly writer Joshua Green by Blair as an algorithm to help win elections.  It was also detailed in the Times.  It remains to be seen if the American Mathematical Society will endorse Hull.

On the topic of endorsements.  The IVI-IPO, a liberal voter organization, endorsed Barack Obama and Dr. Kathuria.  The group said they chose the candidates because they were both strong opponents to the Patriot Actct.

The Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois recently endorsed Barack Obama in the Dem primary and Jack Ryan in the GOP primary.

Obama received endorsements from the Democratic Party of Evanston and the New Trier Democrats.

Chico held a press conference this week with over 60 supporting Latino leaders.  Visit Chico's site for an extensive list of endorsements.

A new blog on the race has been started, it focuses mainly on the Democratic side of things and makes for an interesting read.  Check out http://polis-chicago.blogspot.com

The Daily Herald has a nice article integrating the fashion beat and the Senate race with these fascinating bits of info (Beauty is more than ballot deep):

Schubert (an NIU professor) then took his Romanian photos around the world. From NIU students in DeKalb to Indonesian adults and teens in Papa New Guinea, the top six finishers in the poll received 91 percent of the actual popular vote.

Regardless of country or culture, Schubert says respondents warmed to candidates with prominent brows, strong jaws and high cheek bones.s.

They embraced candidates, it seems, with features similar to Jack Ryan's. And from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, some of the other Senate hopefuls can't blame them.

"The guy looks like a movie star with that million-dollar smile," Democratic candidate Nancy Skinner said. "I think it's going to be a factor in the election."

While Skinner - the only blonde in the Democratic primary - believes Ryan will benefit from his good looks, she contends her appearance has been a detriment to her campaign.

State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, another GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, shaved his beard to look more attractive to voters. It may be a smart move given no one with facial hair has won the White House since newspapers began publishing pictures in 1903.

While Skinner think her looks are hurting her election chances the candidate recently issued the following wanted ad for a Valentine's Day dinner to her mailing list:

SSC (Single Senatorial Candidate) seeking DWM (Democrat with Money) who cares about the direction of this country and wants to see a courageous Democrat in the US Senate who will stand up to the Republicans, for a lovely evening of political discourse and dinner. Minimum bid $1,000 Maximum Bid $12,000 (FEC Max)!

Chuck Sweeney quotes Blair Hullll as promising to bring Metra to Rockford, during a recent debate sponsored by the Winnebago County Democratic Central Committee.

Maria Pappas got into a flap over her late filing of financial disclosure papers required by the Ethics in Government Act.  The Trib headlined on the 9th, "Pappas' finances remain mystery."  She filed the papers later in the week which revealed that she was one of the wealthiest candidates in the race.  When combined with her husband their combined net worth is between $6 million and $15 million.

Pappas also held a press conference critizing Hooters and Hummer spending, CBS 2 posted the following report:

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas was lashing out against federal funds for Hooters and Hummers as she tried to gain momentum in her bid for the U.S. Senate.

Standing next to a Hummer SUV, across from a Hooters restaurant, Democratic Hopeful Maria Pappas railed against what she called pork projects hidden in the federal energy bill: tax credits for businesses that buy big sport utility vehicles, and funding for a mall in Louisiana that includes you-know-what restaurant chain.

But, isn't that mall needed economic development for Shereveport, the kind of project Illinois might want?

It's a matter of priorities, Pappas said. Funding for children should come first, and money for a mall which includes a Hooters restaurant doesn't qualify. But she says she wouldn't turn down economic development money, as long as schools were funded first.

Who would have guessed? GOP hopefuls support tax cut

Barack Obama, Gery Chico and Dan Hynes appeared at celebration of Eid ul-Adha at the Rosemont Convention Center:

Thousands of Muslims dressed in colorful formal garb prayed together in mosques, convention centers and other meeting places Sunday to mark Eid ul-Adha, a holiday celebrating sacrifice and thankfulness to God.  During this election year, politics played a role in the festivities, too, with voter registration booths set up at most sites and political candidates speaking at larger forums, such as at the Rosemont Convention Center, where up to 15,000 Muslims were expected for three prayer services. 

Before the prayers began, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Barack Obama, Gery Chico and Dan Hynes addressed the crowd. They paid their respects and criticized some federal policies, such as the Patriot Act, instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

John Borling received the endorsement of Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain.  The men were cellmates briefly and were in the same North Vietnamese prison camp around 1969 or 1970. (read PR).

TUESDAY, JANUARY 27

Candidates are jostling for position as the race draws closer and many voters don't even know who is running.  With exactly seven weeks to the election the number of undecided voters seems to be hovering between 30%-50%.  The Daily Herald highlighted this problem in a front-page story (Do you know these people?) :

A random survey last week by Daily Herald reporters and editors last week found 87 percent of 162 suburban residents could not name even one Senate candidate from either party.

Only 20 people, for example, could name at least one candidate. This includes the five respondents who simply referred to GOP hopeful Jim Oberweis of Aurora as "the ice cream guy" or "the dude with the dairy."

Three people, for example, thought presidential candidate John Kerry of Massachusetts was running for the Illinois seat. That's three more than the number of participants who remembered radio personality Nancy Skinner, a Chicago Democrat, actually wants the job.

State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin was the most frequently cited candidate among the respondents in the Northwest suburbs and DuPage, Lake and Kane counties. The Republican hopeful earned the distinction with 12 participants able to recall his name.

Millionaire businessman Blair Hull of Chicago netted 11 responses, the most among any Democrat. Nine people answered state Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago, with full credit given to two who could remember only that his name rhymed with Osama.

Anyway, you get the idea.  The candidates are desperately seeking to distinguish themselves from the competition.  On the Republican side, Oberweis has taken the most dramatic step of faith, continually pounding the pavement touting his opposition to President Bush's new immigration plan.  Following is a transcript of his latest radio ad (download mp33):

Announcer: Jim Oberweis, conservative Republican for Senate and successful business man.

Oberweis: I've been a supporter of President Bush on taxes, on terrorism, and his opposition to gay marriage. But I must stand opposed to the administrations plan to liberalize immigration laws. Illegal immigration fosters disrespect for the rule of law, results in lower wages for American families, and costs taxpayers millions for government services. The President's plan is just plain wrong. I want to be the voice for Illinois voters to tell the President we think illegal immigration cannot be rewarded with amnesty. Call toll free 877-603-2004. signup to oppose the President's initiative and join my campaign for straight talk in the US Senate.

Announcer: Jim Oberweis straight talking conservative voice for Illinois. Call toll free 877-603-2004 or log on to www.oberweis2004.com

Oberweis: I'm Jim Oberweis and I approved this message so I can send the President a message from you.

This position has not curried him favor with Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert.  Hastert who endorsed Oberweis in 2002, told the Beacon News:

He's "disappointed" in Oberweis for taking such a strong stance against President Bush's recent immigration-reform proposal. Oberweis has called the plan "blanket amnesty in disguise," a comment that doesn't seem to sit well with Hastert. "He's trying to demagogue the immigration thing," Hastert said. "I wish he would talk about other issues that are important in this race, but I guess that's what he thinks will get more talk going.

According to the Daily Herald, "Among Republicans, only retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Borling of Rockford, businessman Andy McKenna of Glenview and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin voiced support for Bush's plan, calling it a good starting point for debate."

On a side note, Lynn Sweet took Oberweis to task for the blatant entanglement between his dairy and his Senate run.  I do have to admit I was slightly disconcerted when I saw his latest logo:

The other issue that the candidates are sparring over is the Iraq war.  While the Republicans are fairly unified over the issue, Democratic opinion varies.  State Sen. Barack Obama has been the most vocal opponent of the war for the longest period of time.  He is also the only candidate who said he would have opposed the $87 billion reconstruction bill.  The Trib details the differences herere.

Dan Hynes got some bad PR over circular campaign contributions (STL Post-Dispatch: In Illinois politics, campaign money goes round and round, records show):

Under federal law, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes cannot use money from his state campaign fund for his U.S. Senate bid, and he instead has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians and organizations in Chicago.

In turn, he has received donations in similar amounts from the same sources for his U.S. Senate campaign, according to state and federal campaign records analyzed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Chris Mathers, a spokeswoman for Hynes, said the donations are a routine part of politics, and weren't an attempt to slip restricted state campaign money into Hynes' Senate campaign.

Gery Chico has released an internal poll that shows him tied for first place!  It was an "internet poll" administered by 21st Century Campaigns. 1,168 registered voters participated:

14% Dan Hynes
12% Gery Chico
12% Maria Pappas
12% Barack Obama
9% Blair Hull
4% Nancy Skinner
2% Joyce Washington
35% Undecided

More details to follow.

One of the most unseen faces in this campaign has been Maria Pappas.  Eric Zorn criticized the candidate in his Saturday column:

On this Thursday night I have listened to her speak at the Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce and Industry's annual banquet and (in Greek) at a fundraiser for Cook County Circuit Court judicial candidate Peggy Chiampas, and I am now tailing her around the Blue Angel.

Her political positions and legislative ideas have not come up. What does she stand for? Why, aside from the fact that she's so darn personable, should these people vote for her?

If Riyad goes to her Web site and clicks on "issues," he'll find just 189 words, total, on three topics: Economy, health care and education.

Compare this to the "issues" area of the Web sites of the Democrats with whom she is tied atop the recent Tribune poll: More than 9,000 words on 12 topics from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and close to 3,500 words on nine topics from state Comptroller Dan Hynes.

The issues part of the campaign "hasn't even started yet," she says before we say goodbye and she heads off to another restaurant. "Nobody's been paying attention."

Since the article was written Pappas has expanded her issue statements.

And for the title of "Best utilization of Microsoft Clipart in a Press Release" . . .  (PDF 118kb)

FRIDAY, JANUARY 16

Pundits and Pols alike have been waiting for months to see new poll numbers, but the results of the two latest polls are mixed and inconclusive. Two polls have been released in the past three days, a WBBM poll conducted by Survey USA with a margin of 3.8% for the Dems and 4.9% for the Reps, and the other a Tribune/WGN-TV conducted by Market Shares Corp with a 4.5% margin of error.

Candidate WBBM Tribune
Hynes 20 14
Obama 1919 14
Hull 19 10
Pappas 18 14
Chico 9 6
Washington 4 *
Skinner 4 *
Undecided 7 38

WBBM Tribune
Ryan 29 12
Oberweis 17 16
McKenna 14 5
Borling 10 *
Rauschenberger 7 5
Kathuria 3>3 *
Undecided 19 57
     

*Percentages lower than the polls margin of error

The issue of the week seems to be immigration. Oberweis has distinguished himself by coming out swinging against President Bush's new immigration policy. In an article on his website entitled, "Oberweis Opposes Bush Immigration Proposals 'Blanket Amnesty in Disguise'" Oberweis says:

. . . regarding his (President Bush's) plans to deal with illegal immigration I must respectfully, yet firmly disagree. His proposals are just plain wrong.

I'm opposed to any amnesty program that rewards illegal behavior. And no matter what kind of rhetoric the President seeks to clothe his proposal in, it's simply a blanket amnesty program in disguise.  These proposals do more to worsen our illegal immigration situation, not improve it.

Oberweis has taken some flack from fellow GOP members for running ads in Southern Illinois criticizing Bush's immigration policy.  Jack Ryan released a interesting statement on the subject:

While I am a strong supporter of legal immigration, I have always taught my high school students the value of respecting the law.  I could not in good conscience support a proposal that rewards illegal behavior, and then have to go back and explain to my students why it’s acceptable in this situation.

Oberweis is also being criticized for integrating his ice cream into his campaign.  The Suntimes reports:

A new publicity campaign by U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis is again raising questions about whether the dairy mogul is mixing family business interests with his own political aspirations. The Naperville Sun reported that Oberweis, an Aurora resident and one of nine Republican candidates on the March 16 primary ballot, is planning a series of campaign appearances at his namesake ice cream stores. He'll offer free scoops of Oberweis ice cream and the chance to enter an "ice cream for life" sweepstakes. The so-called dairy tour was set to kick off Sunday at the Oswego Oberweis store, one of the chain's 27 Chicago area locations. Some of Oberweis' opponents, including Republicans John Borling and Jack Ryan, are crying foul.

Courier News reporter Ed Fanselow wrote a more in-depth article on the subject. (Foes cool to Oberweis ice cream give-away ploy)

While campaign officials defend the events as a fun and family-friendly way to introduce voters to the candidate and his stance on the issues, more than a few of Oberweis' opponents are crying foul.

"It's unfortunate to say the least," a campaign spokesman for Republican Senate candidate John Borling said. "Especially after what we've gone through over the last few years, Republicans need to follow the letter and the spirit of the law."

Similarly, a spokesman for Jack Ryan, another Republican Senate hopeful, accused Oberweis of "playing fast and loose with federal campaign-finance laws" that prohibit candidates from accepting any kind of corporate contributions.

Still, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a nonpartisan watch-dog group, gave the "dairy tour" its stamp of approval, noting that the ice cream, the sweepstakes and direct-mail brochures promoting the events all are paid for by the Oberweis for Senate campaign, not the stores themselves.

Another thing that both polls show on the Democratic side is that 3-4 candidates are in a dead heat.  This most likely will make the importance of GOTV efforts and last minute mass media advertising all the more important.  This situation probably favors Dan Hynes and Blair Hull since they have the most money to organize such efforts.  However, Obama will be a formidable candidate, his campaign announced fundraising of $3,001,144 in 2003, an impressive war chest that should give him a chance. Ironically, Obama's candidacy was put down by conservative news source National Review Political reporter John Miller:

ILLINOIS: This election remains the Democrats' best chance to pickup a seat currently held by a Republican and state comptroller Dan Hynes appears well on his way to winning his party's nomination. The GOP's best hope would be for state Sen. Barack Obama to upset him in the primary. LEANING DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER

While this analysis provides little in way of explanation a recent Tribune poll showed George Bush beating Howard Dean with a 46% to 40% margin.  Obama has been a much harsher critic of the Iraq war than Hynes and Pappas, which may hurt him in the general.

Obama, Hull, and Skinner will have to look for a different presidential candidate to endorse, all three were supporters of now Howard Dean staffer Carol Moseley Braun.

And in the most colorful and ironic language this week, late entering Republican candidate Andy Martin wrote in a letter to Carol Fowler, Channel 2 VP:

The Chicago Tribune once called me "an absolutely brilliant campaigner" whose "public relations skills are masterly." I have improved since that was written. What would you rather cover: a bunch of clowns, led by a milkman and a Wall Street swindler, or someone who really knows what is happening around the world because he has been there? I think I make my point.

Former Jack Ryan press secratary, Lissa Druss Christman was replaced this week by Kelli E. Phiel.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 8

In what could turn out to be the deciding factor in the Democratic primary, Dan Hynes warded off Barack Obama to secure the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.

The Hill ran a story yesterday chronicling the battle between Obama and Hynes (Ill. labor leaders to decide on a Senate endorsement)

If Hynes secures the support of the umbrella group, which has roughly 1,500 affiliates in the state, it could lock up the race for him more than two months before the March 16 primary.

If his chief rival, state Sen. Barack Obama, musters enough votes to thwart a Hynes endorsement, it would be a big blow to Hynes, who has billed himself as the labor candidate.

Nate Tamarin, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) — all of which have endorsed Obama — give the campaign much-needed muscle.

One Illinois Republican portrayed all the old-time union chiefs lining up behind Hynes as part of a grand Chicago tradition of dynasties and Democratic machine politics. “Everybody knows this is Papa Hynes’s boy and you better frickin’ give it to him, or we’re going to break your knees,” he said.

Hynes’s father, Tom Hynes, runs Chicago’s 19th Ward and sits on the Democratic National Committee. His brother, Matt, ran Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign in Illinois and is now in charge of Hynes’s Senate campaign.

Tribune (Hynes wins Illinois AFL-CIO endorsement)

"This is by far the most significant endorsement of this campaign,'' Hynes said at a news conference where he was flanked by AFL-CIO president Margaret Blackshere and other labor leaders.

Steve Neal ran a story predicting such yesterday. (Hynes poised to snare key labor backing)

The Illinois AFL-CIO represents 1,066,000 union members in the state – the third largest state membership in the country. Support from labor unions and the AFL-CIO is a key element to winning Democratic primaries in Illinois - in 2002, the AFL-CIO was instrumental in helping elect a Governor, state legislature and statewide candidates who respect the rights of working men and women.

Rauschenburger got his campaign stunt in the Sun-Times today:

"If job experience doesn't matter, why can't I coach the Chicago Bears?" Rauschenberger said. "I'm just following the lead of my millionaire GOP Senate opponents --who have no legislative experience, no background in public service --in applying for a job that I'm not qualified for."

The article also included the responses from the other candidates:

McKenna shrugs off Rauschenberger's argument, pointing out that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was a physician with no government experience when he was elected to the Senate in 1994, and George W. Bush was a businessman when he was elected governor of Texas that same year.

Borling spokesman David Zapata was even more cutting, arguing Rauschenberger is certainly not the Mike Ditka in the race.

"Steve Rauschenberger running for the U.S. Senate is like the Bears bringing back Dave Wannstedt," Zapata said. "It's a step backwards. ... We need tested, experienced leadership like John Borling -- someone who can help rebuild the party, not someone who's picked up the uniforms for the last decade."

McKenna has a strong point.  Bush and Frist are leading Republicans without long histories in politics, as well as Senators John Corzine (Goldman Sachs), John Edwards (Trial Lawyer), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska - Vanguard Cell) , Herb Kohl (Wisconsin - Milwaukee Bucks Owner), and scads of Congressmen.

The cover of the Sun-Times had a teaser headline on the sexiest politicians in Illinois; in a bi-partisan move Democrat Maria Pappas and Republican Jack Ryan both made the list, although Jack's picture was much larger. 

John Borling has announced he will term limit himself to three terms (18 years).

Andy Martin has decided to defend Norm Hill while he defends himself:

In the great Chicago tradition of Clarence Darrow, of which I am a direct descendent through Senator Paul Douglas, I have asked the State Board for permission to defend Hill.

I am not a member of the Illinois Bar, and I do not practice law. But as a former law professor and public interest advocate I do take on occasional special cases. Last year I won a landmark victory for a U.S. Marine in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It was a major decision supporting our troops in Iraq under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 6

Dan Hynes picked up the  Endorsement of Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois. Press Release

SATURDAY, JANUARY 3

Andy Martin has filed a lawsuit and served a subpoena on Andy McKenna.  Download PDF

Note: Andrew M. Raucci who is named in the above lawsuit has stated that the "purported lawsuit" filed by Andy Martin "contains false, malicious and scurrilous allegations."  Statements posted on this website from third party sources do not in any way reflect the views of this website.

Joyce Washington launched a new website.  Looks pretty good.

Borling got a fair writeup by Roeser.

All the candidates have put out their impassioned pleas for money during the final days of the year.  On January 31st, 4th Quarter FEC filings are due.

Steve Neal gave Obama a nice story. Obama's endorsements stacking up

And I know its old news, but it is just too funny.  The Trib put out a story, "Hynes staff jumps gun on popular carol" in which they expained:

The problem is that Christmas begins on Christmas and ends Jan. 6, a day traditionally celebrated as the Epiphany, the day the three wise men are said to have visited the infant Jesus.

The Hynes campaign sent out news releases starting Dec. 14 for 12 days of Christmas blitz aimed at highlighting things President George Bush has done wrong.

...it's expected Hynes staffers won't forget the real start of Christmas again.

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