Just seven weeks after he came from nowhere and declared, "I am in--no doubt," Downstate millionaire John Simmons again upended the U.S. Senate race Wednesday, folding his Democratic campaign and throwing his support to state Comptroller Dan Hynes.
"Dan's the man," Simmons said. "He'll do great for us."
The trial lawyer said he is pulling the plug to devote his energy to reopening a steel mill and to try to prevent a Democratic donnybrook from hurting the party's chances in 2004.
"The Democrats do not need a bloodbath in March," Simmons said. "It's not going to help us win in November."
The surprise move is an important boost for Hynes, who already has lined up the backing of southern Illinois political power Glenn Poshard and 71 of the 96 Downstate Democratic county chairmen in his quest to replace Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.
"The endorsement of the only Downstate candidate in this race is a significant addition to the overwhelming support Dan already has," said Chris Mather, Hynes' communications director.
Simmons' candidacy threatened to turn the Democratic side of the race upside down, leaving Hynes and the five other Chicago Democrats to fight it out in the city while Simmons picked up Downstate votes. His departure leaves investor M. Blair Hull as the only Democratic millionaire in the race.
Simmons, 35, a first-time candidate from Edwardsville, planned to spent $12 million to $15 million on the primary alone. He kicked off his candidacy in a May 22 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, saying he was ready to go "100 percent, 100 miles an hour" and would "have a blast doing it."
Simmons insisted he was not pulling the plug for lack of support. But he conceded that Hynes had already wrapped up some of the support from organized labor that Simmons had been hoping for.
Other announced or potential Democratic candidates include state Sen. Barack Obama, former Chicago School Board President Gery Chico, health care executive Joyce Washington and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.