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




There were notably fewer visitors on Republican Day than the day before for Governors Day. The sun was beating down on the fair goers and made things a bit less comfortable than the day before. Walking onto the Directors Lawn it appeared there were around 70 people peppered about. The morning lacked the frenzied activity and vigorous support that was shown for the Democratic candidates, but the atmosphere was more friendly and relaxed.

Oberweis volunteers, holding signs, passing out stickers, and very visible in their bright red “Oberweis for U.S. Senate” T-shirts, were the first to greet the voters that trickled onto the lawn. Oberweis, along with John Cox, Ret. Gen. John Borling, state senator Rauschenberger, Andy McKenna and later Jack Ryan, greeted and spoke with the people that came and went.

News crews hopped from one candidate to another getting interviews and statements. Judy Barr Topinka met with voters and press members. She said she was not making an endorsement, and that the people should vote for whomever they thought was best. “This is the best crop [of senate hopefuls] we’ve ever had! They are all great,” Topinka said. Adding later, “…but after the primary we all have to get behind the winner. None of the squabbling and bickering that lost us the governor’s election!” Later during her speech, she expounded on the need for a united party to hold this senate seat. Topinka quoted Ronald Reagan and the “11th commandment” in her plea for party members to unite behind the winner of the primary to ensure a victory in the general “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

Under this banner of party unity and re-organization, the six candidates each made a short speech. In each presentation, the candidates talked a little about what they saw as the important issues and aspects of the race. To many of the candidates, just keeping the Senate seat in Republican hands was the major campaign issue. Oberweis stated that it was one of the primary reasons voters should consider him at the polls this spring “I think I am the candidate that can keep this seat.” Oberweis also reminded voters that he was runner up in the last Senate race and feels he has the best chance in this race.

John Cox, who has been dubbed by some “the Perennial Candidate” spoke about “corruption and cronyism” in our state government and advocated a south side airport. One of the major issues for Cox is O’Hare expansion. He tied for third place in a straw poll held at Springfield breakfast and again in a WBBM news poll.

Andy McKenna, who was listed as the “establishment candidate” for the Republican nomination by Tom Roeser, said his platform was based on new jobs for Illinois. “The important issues in this race will be the economy, tax-reform, and fair trade.” He expounded a little on his platform by saying, “…we have seen lot of jobs move to Canada and Mexico as a result of NAFTA. And we need to re-negotiate NAFTA and other agreements and bring jobs back to America and Illinois.” McKenna’s poll numbers currently place him in 4th or 5th place depending on the poll. He doesn’t seem to be too worried about the number at this point, “I’m just getting started,” he says.

Andy McKenna isn’t the only candidate just getting started, state senator Steven Rauschenberger has also jumped in the race, announcing that he has filed the papers for an exploratory committee. Rauschenberger’s words at the State Fair went along those of Judy Barr Topinka - towards party unity. He also noted he was the only candidate, on the Republican side of this race with legislative experience. After the event, Rauschenberger was endorsed by many of his colleagues in the senate, and he named minority leader Frank Watson to his exploratory committee as co-chair.

When Jack Ryan’s turn came to speak, his name was announced but he was nowhere to be found on the platform where all the speakers had congregated. Ryan was in the audience still greeting supporters and talking about the issues with the people present. Shortly after being announced he made his way through the crowd and bounded up onto the platform, showing himself to be by far the most energetic candidate. Ryan outlined the major issues for his campaign “Number one, Education. We need to educate our children; we have to provide them with an education that will help them in this increasingly technologically driven world. Number two, We need to help the economy create jobs. Number three, We need to keep our country safe and secure; to make it a safer place for our children.” The tone of Ryan’s speech was upbeat and optimistic, and with good reason. He is currently ranked in first or second in the polls and his campaign is gaining momentum.

Ryan is bringing new voters with him. The number and diversity of Ryan supporters at the Fair far outnumbered any other candidate. His message of empowering the people and helping them to live the American dream along with his story –how he left his career in the world of finance to teach at an all black inner city school has gained him a foothold in the African-American community. Although some in the Republican Party and some Democrats in the black community have alleged that he is “exploiting” his African-American support, his supporters don’t think so. “The Democratic Party has left us behind! We need some one who can get things done and Jack can get things done!” said a middle aged African-American father of 4. “I am for Jack because he is for the little man,” said an older African-American woman and community activist. Only time will tell if Jack can make any real inroads in this traditionally Democrat voting block.

Adding another group to the voting pool is Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria an ethnic Indian. Dr. Kathuria has lived the American dream; an immigrant whose parents came over with only a few dollars to their name. He got an education, became a doctor and a business man and by many reports, has made a good amount of money in his business ventures. He is receiving the attention and respect of many in the ethnic Indian community, which may draw them to the polls and to the Republican Party this March. Dr. Kathuria was at Republican Day at the State Fair but arrived after the speeches had taken place. Dr. Kathuria was 7th in the WBBM news poll with just 2%.

Three parties, held after the events at the state fair, showed the various kinds of support present. Jack Ryan enjoyed the most outright support. If you talked to most of the voters at the Ryan party many of them had already made up their minds as to where their vote would go this March. McKenna’s party contrasted in that the majority of attendees were there to find out more about McKenna. No matter which party you went to, you always heard a good deal of, “I’m going to vote for the winner.” Meaning that whoever is ahead in the polls closer to the primary would be the candidate most likely to receive their vote. This 15-30% of swing voters will be crucial for any candidate to gain the victory this March.

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