- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2004

Illinois Republican candidate Jack Ryan quit his Senate campaign yesterday, succumbing to a growing scandal based on accusations made during a nasty divorce.

Mr. Ryan, 44, a successful businessman and newcomer to politics, announced his withdrawal yesterday, four days after his divorce records were unsealed. According to those records, his former wife, actress Jeri Ryan, accused Mr. Ryan of asking her to perform sex acts in public while attending a strip club.

The announcement brought relief for Republicans.

“Jack Ryan made the right decision,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a fellow Illinois Republican. “I know it must have been a difficult one.”

Even before the scandal erupted, Republicans were not hopeful about holding onto the seat in the heavily Democratic state. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, a wealthy Republican who won the seat largely because of dissatisfaction with Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

State Republicans were particularly concerned that the scandal might erode the chances of other Republicans on the ticket in November’s election.

As soon as Mr. Ryan made his announcement, Republicans began eyeing replacements to face Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama.

Names being floated include U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, no relation to the retiring senator, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and Illinois School Board member Ron Gidwitz.

“The Illinois Republican Party is fortunate to have a number of talented and qualified candidates who would represent our state well in Washington, D.C,” Mr. Hastert said. “I am confident the party will select a candidate who will unite Republicans throughout this state and quickly launch a winning campaign based on substantive issues that are of importance to Illinois voters.”

Mr. Ryan called the whole matter a “brutal, scorched-earth campaign — the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.”

In particular, he blamed the Chicago Tribune and local TV station WLS for suing to have his divorce records unsealed. Mr. Ryan and his ex-wife argued that the records should remain sealed in order to protect their 9-year-old son.

“The media has gotten out of control,” Mr. Ryan said. “The fact that the Chicago Tribune sues for access to sealed custody documents and then takes unto itself the right to publish details of a custody dispute — over the objections of two parents who agree that the re-airing of their arguments will hurt their ability to co-parent their child and will hurt their child — is truly outrageous.”

Throughout the ordeal, Mr. Ryan had one ally in his corner: outgoing Sen. Fitzgerald, who urged him not to withdraw.

“I think the public stoning of Jack Ryan is one of the most grotesque things I’ve seen in politics,” he said.

Democrats, meanwhile, officially were staying out of the controversy. They did, however, pick Mr. Obama to deliver the party’s weekly radio address today.

This report is based in part on wire services.

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