Keyes officially joins Ill. race for Senate

Md. conservative to run against Obama, replacing GOP primary winner

August 09, 2004|By John Chase and Liam Ford | John Chase and Liam Ford,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- Two-time Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes officially entered the Illinois race for U.S. Senate yesterday against Democrat Barack Obama -- the first Senate race in which the two candidates from both major parties are black.

Keyes, a conservative Maryland political commentator, accepted the nomination from the Illinois Republican State Central Committee to replace primary winner Jack Ryan, who dropped out amid a sex scandal.

At a news conference yesterday, Keyes took a significant amount of time explaining why he was deciding to parachute into Illinois to run. One of the biggest reasons, he said, was because of Obama's support for abortion rights, especially late-term abortions.

"Barack Obama abandons the principles of our Declaration [of Independence] and destroys the foundation of our national union," Keyes said.

Keyes conceded his lack of knowledge of Illinois and spoke a great deal about his love of Maryland.

"I might not know the streets yet and the neighborhoods and all the things that go to make up the everyday life of the people," Keyes said. "But if in fact the people of Illinois still stand together on the American creed, still assert their right of self-government, still have the sense of responsible citizenship, then I believe I know their spirit and their conscience and their heart."

Dropping into the race from another state is an uncomfortable position for Keyes, who criticized Hillary Rodham Clinton for moving to New York to make her 2000 Senate run. When asked last week how he felt about running for Senate in a state he had never lived in, he said: "As a matter of principle, I don't think it's a good idea."

Keyes mounted two quixotic runs for president, in 1996 and 2000. He still owes $524,000 for his failed presidential bids, according to Federal Election Commission documents. He also was defeated twice in Maryland races for the U.S. Senate in 1988 and 1992.

The former cable-television and radio talk-show host is known for a rousing speaking style steeped in Christian moral philosophy. He has a built-in base among conservatives and the Christian right.

"We do face an uphill battle, there's no doubt," Keyes told supporters at a rally. "So I'm not going to stand here and with tremendous ease promise you a victory. But I'll tell you what I will promise: I will promise you a fight."

Keyes will begin the race with a heavy disadvantage against Obama, a legislator from Chicago who has raised more than $10 million and gave the keynote address last month at the Democratic National Convention.

Even before Ryan dropped out, Obama was considered a heavy favorite in Illinois.

Obama called the GOP choice of a black candidate "a hopeful sign for the country," but said voters might balk at an out-of-state candidate.

Keyes has until Election Day to establish residency in Illinois according to federal law. The party has until Aug. 26 to submit his name for the ballot.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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