Alan Keyes Enters U.S. Senate Race in Illinois
Well, it’s official:
Alan Keyes, the conservative Maryland political commentator whom Illinois Republicans turned to after weeks of searching for a replacement Senate candidate, agreed Sunday to run against a rising Democratic star who has only grown stronger amid GOP scandal and disarray. “We do face an uphill battle, there’s no doubt,” Keyes told cheering 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!”
The Republican two-time presidential hopeful will face Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama in the campaign to replace retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Keyes’ entry sets up the first U.S. Senate election with two black candidates representing the major parties, and seemingly assures Illinois of producing only the fifth black senator in history.
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 responded: “As a matter of principle, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” On Sunday, Keyes spent much of his speech discussing his love of Maryland and his deliberations over running in Illinois. Keyes said he felt he should leave Maryland to “defend the land of my spirit and my conscience and my heart.” “If indeed that land is the state of Illinois, then I have lived in the Land of Lincoln all my life.” he said.
An artful answer to an uncomfortable question. And the carpetbagger issue will likely not matter much. Keyes will make the race interesting because he’s more than Obama’s equal as an orator. But, like his presidential runs, this is almost entirely about getting a platform from which to deliver his message rather than a serious effort at winning elective office. A Republican can certainly win in Illinois, but not one so passionate in his social conservatism as Keyes.
But Mr. Keyes was obviously not the first choice of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a powerful figure in Illinois Republican circles. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to promote his new book, Mr. Hastert described his extensive efforts to find a replacement for the winner of the Republican primary, Jack Ryan, who decided to step aside in June after some embarrassing assertions by his ex-wife in their divorce file.
“I spent five weeks trying to find good people,” said Mr. Hastert, who said he approached state legislators and the former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and Gary Fencik, an Ivy Leaguer who was a hard-hitting safety. “I got down into last week interviewing a 70-year-old guy who was a great farm broadcaster in Illinois,” Mr. Hastert said. “He decided because of his health problems he couldn’t do it. You know, we were down Ã¢€” we needed to find somebody to run, somebody who wanted to run. And, you know, Alan Keyes wants to run, and I hope he’s a good candidate.” But Tim Russert pressed Mr. Hastert by saying it appeared that Illinois Republicans had gone out and recruited an out-of-state black candidate to oppose Mr. Obama, who is also black. “I tell you what,” Mr. Hastert. “I was out of town when it happened.”
A ringing endorsement if ever I heard one!