- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Former UNESCO Ambassador Alan Keyes yesterday announced that he will take on Democratic darling Barack Obama in the Illinois race for the U.S. Senate, ending the Republican Party’s frantic six-week search for a candidate.

“We are running on issues of national principle here,” Mr. Keyes, 54, said last night in an interview with The Washington Times. “What most influenced my decision to run was my opponent’s views on these important issues and his record is very bad on defense of marriage, abortion, and he has taken hard-line stances on those issues.”

He called Mr. Obama “one of those people who wants to spend money on government programs but has no plan on how to pay for them. He has a lot of those characteristics that we associate with Democratic liberals.”

The Maryland resident addressed the idea of entering the race as an outsider.

“I think I have made myself clear that I have a deep objection to making states a symbol of national ambition,” said Mr. Keyes, who lost Senate bids in Maryland in 1988 and 1992. “That was one of the reasons that I had to think long and hard about this run. I think as Lincoln demonstrated, when principles of the national union are at stake, the idea of sovereignty has to be reconsidered. I have nothing personal at stake here, but we have an obligation to act in defense of those national principles.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Keyes told his supporters at a rally in suburban Chicago, where he announced his candidacy, that he could not promise a victory.

“We do face an uphill battle, there’s no doubt,” said Mr. Keyes, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000. “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.”

Mr. Obama responded to the Republican’s announcement by saying that as Mr. Keyes travels the state, he will find that “families here are concerned about quality jobs, making health care more affordable and ensuring our children get the best education possible.”

“And Illinoisans want a Senate candidate who will attack the problems they and their families face rather than spending time attacking each other,” Mr. Obama told the Associated Press.

Mr. Keyes will face opposition charges of carpetbagging.

Other Republicans, though, note that Mr. Keyes is an invited candidate, unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, with no ties to New York, first won a contested Democratic primary there before winning a Senate seat in 2000.

At that time, though, Mr. Keyes told Fox News, “I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton’s willingness to go into a state she doesn’t even live in and pretend to represent people there.”

Under federal law, Mr. Keyes will have to establish residency in Illinois by Election Day on Nov. 2.

Mr. Keyes replaces former Republican nominee Jack Ryan, who quit the race June 25 after records of his divorce were made public.

Mr. Keyes’ candidacy is a victory for Illinois conservatives, who feared the Republican hierarchy would support a more centrist candidate.

Illinois Republicans said that several at the top rung of the party’s leadership had endorsed Andrea Barthwell, a former Cabinet member in the Bush administration who has made contributions to Democratic politicians.

“Without Jack Ryan, a hole was left open that we feared would be filled with a liberal, like Barthwell,” said Jill Stanek, pro-life coordinator for Concerned Women for America of Illinois.

She said Mr. Keyes “is perfect on our issues and he is able to articulate them well. We know that blacks are against gay marriage and abortion and in favor of school choice. Obama is on the wrong side of all of those for mainstream blacks.”

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