Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Keyes to Victory, a conservative online news site for Illinois is reporting that the State Central Committee for the Republican Party of Illinois has selected former Ambassador Alan Keyes as the party's candidate for U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by the withdrawal of nominee Jack Ryan. Keyes will face state Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago, in the general election.

The move is historic because for the first time both major parties have selected an African-American to be their party's standard-bearer. Many may have seen or read about Obama's speech last week at the Democratic National Convention. While I missed it, I have heard him speak on the floor of the Illinois Senate in Springfield as well as during one of his campaign stops at Southeastern Illinois College earlier this year where I hit him up on the Old Slave House.

As last week made clear, Obama is a rising star in the Democratic Party and one of their finest speakers. Keyes, on the other hand, is the finest speaker in the Republican Party. I've listened to him before in his two runs for president. He may have not been able to get past the party favorites of Bob Dole and George W. Bush, but he impressed a number of people, for he is more than eloquent. He actually knows what he is talking about and surprise, surprise, willing to actually say it.

I've never written a letter to a member of the state central committee though I know one or two fairly well from my days as a reporter. When I read Monday that a suburban committeeman was backing Keyes, my heart fluttered. Finally, after weeks of searching for a candidate, they finally found one, even if he currently wasn't a resident of the state. I even sent off an e-mail to Keyes encouraging him to jump into the race.

Now, for a number of reason, this race will be historic. The fact that two African-Americans will be facing off is, quite frankly, not that important now that we are in the 21st Century. More important will be the national exposure this race will generate as two smart, eloquent, speakers will go head to head with each other talking about their core issues.

As I noted in my letter to Keyes, "as John Kerry and George Bush fight for the middle and muddle their message, a race between you and Barack Obama would bring ideological clarity to the issues that are at stake in this election."

This would be the most watched Senate election in Illinois since that one back in '58. No, not 1958, the one a century earlier. The one where the Republican fielded that lanky lawyer from Springfield - Abraham Lincoln and the Democrats ran their nationally known orator and leader, Stephan A. Douglas.

I know this is a history website, and other than grumble about the state budget process and how it affects state historic sites, I try not to do politics here, but I wanted to take the chance to express myself and since I own the site, why not? If you ever wanted to know what the differences were between the Democratic and Republican parties, now is your chance. Follow this election. Get involved. Participate. And above all, if you are willing to educate yourself about the issues and politics, then get out and vote this November.

UPDATE: The first full stories now appearing online indicate Keyes will make a decision by Sunday. Run Alan run.


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