Alan Keyes, the antigay Republican two-time presidential hopeful, has entered Illinois's U.S. Senate race, facing a demanding task against a strong Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, with less than three months to go before the election. Keyes will begin with a heavy disadvantage against Obama, a state senator from Chicago who has raised more than $10 million and who delivered the keynote address last month at the Democratic National Convention.
"We do face an uphill battle, there's no doubt," Keyes said. "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 battle to replace retiring GOP senator Peter Fitzgerald will be the first U.S. Senate election with two black candidates representing the major parties and seemingly assures that Illinois will produce only the fifth black senator in history.
Keyes, a Maryland resident who also twice failed in runs for the U.S. Senate in that state, spent much of his speech discussing his deliberations over running in Illinois. 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."
Keyes, who turned 54 on Saturday, replaces Jack Ryan, who withdrew from the race amid embarrassing sex-club allegations in his divorce records. He has until Election Day to establish residency in Illinois, according to federal law. The party has until August 26 to submit his name for the ballot.
Keyes opposes abortion and gay rights, wants to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, and calls affirmative action a "government patronage program." He said he decided to enter the race after reviewing Obama's record on abortion, gun control, and taxes and determining that someone must challenge him.
In a statement Obama said that as Keyes travels the state, he'll 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," Obama said.