- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

CHICAGO (AP) — The Democratic front-runner in tomorrow’s Illinois Senate primary got an emotional endorsement from the Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday and visited black churches.

Mr. Jackson stood in front of a Chicago church choir, endorsed Barack Obama and recalled how Congress passed the landmark Voting Rights Act 39 years ago after civil rights marchers outside Selma, Ala., were met with dogs and police clubs.

“We must never forget the blood of the cross or the blood on the bridge at Selma, Ala.,” Mr. Jackson said. He urged his audience to “vote to have a black man of substance in the U.S. Senate.”

Mr. Obama, leading in all recent polls, sought to fire up supporters to produce a big turnout tomorrow, saying, “I need you to carry me across the finish line.”

Primary voters will choose Republican and Democratic candidates to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, a Republican.

Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan father, dismissed any notion that his unusual-sounding name could prove a handicap.

“If we can elect a governor named Rod Blagojevich, we can elect a senator named Barack Obama,” the Harvard-trained former civil rights lawyer said.

Meanwhile yesterday, Republican candidate Jim Oberweis called on his party’s front-runner, Jack Ryan, to “clear the air” about sealed child-custody papers stemming from his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan.

Mr. Oberweis suggested yesterday that former Gov. Jim Edgar, state GOP Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka or Cardinal Francis George of Chicago could view the records.