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COLUMN: Chuck Sweeny
A real-life ?Maverick? runs for U.S. Senate

Most of you aren?t a bit interested in who the next U.S. senator from Illinois will be, because the election isn?t until 2004. There are nearly a dozen potential candidates, but only one is pummeling you on the airwaves with commercials that play endlessly.

He?s Democrat Blair Hull, a multimillionaire from Chicago who intends to spend $40 million or more of his own money to win the Senate seat being vacated by Peter Fitzgerald, R-Inverness.

I know what you?re saying. ?Big deal, Illinois has another Daddy Warbucks running for the Senate. They don?t always win.?

BUT SOMETIMES THEY do. Fitzgerald is wealthy because he?s in a successful banking family. Not interesting. But Hull made a tremendous fortune because he?s a good gambler. Very interesting. Yet the official biography at doesn?t say anything about his gambling. Some archived news articles on the Web site mention it, though.

Confession: When I interviewed Hull recently at The Potato Shack in Loves Park, we spent all our time talking about health care, taxes and education, and I never got around to asking him about his gambling.

So I did a Nexis search of news articles to discover more about Hull the gambler. Here?s a digest: Hull, a math wizard, learned how to count cards at the blackjack tables of Las Vegas. He be-came so good at it in the 1970s that the casinos banned him. In 1980, Hull took money he?d won and started Hull Trading Co., an investment firm trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He beat that system by developing a way to buy and sell on computers, opening the trading process to small investors.

Hull, who owned about three-fifths of the company, sold the firm for $531 million to Goldman Sachs.

Hull?s ads don?t mention any of that. Instead, we learn boring things. He worked in a cannery and joined a union. Did a stint in two military organizations, the U.S. and Fuller Brush armies. He was raised by New Deal Parents, whatever that means. He?s a Strong Demo-crat. He?ll create jobs. And, oh yes, he ?approved this ad.? Well, whoopee!

HE LEFT OUT ALL the good stuff. Here?s the ad he ought to run:

Scene: A blackjack table somewhere in Las Vegas. Hull is hunched over the card table; sweat is on his brow. The announcer says:

?Blair Hull. A bold, smart gambler, he took on the big Vegas casinos and turned his skill at the gaming tables into half a billion dollars on the trading floors of Chicago. Now Blair Hull wants a seat at the high-stakes game on Capitol Hill. To win for Illinois.?

Cue Hull, looking up from the table and into the camera: ?I?m Blair Hull. You?ve got to know when to hold ?em, know when to fold ?em, know when to walk away, and when to run ? for the U.S. Senate. I do, and I?m betting my money on America?s future. I?d like you to bet on me when you go to the polls.?

Hull?s handlers would never let him make such an ad. What the Hull, Blair? Spice up the advertising, fella. You can?t lose. Trust me.

Call Political Editor Chuck Sweeny at 815-987-1372 or e-mail