Divorce an Issue in Ill. Senate Race
By MIKE ROBINSON
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 6, 2004; 12:12 AM
CHICAGO - A poll released Friday shows millionaire businessman Blair Hull, an early front-runner in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, slipping into third place after allegations of domestic violence surfaced.
Hull, who has poured $29 million of his own money into television ads, has been dogged by recently unsealed papers from his 1998 divorce from Brenda Sexton, the head of the state film office.
The papers disclosed that Hull struck Sexton on the leg in the middle of a quarrel, and allegedly threatened to kill her, calling her a crude name.
In a poll of 400 probable Democratic voters, Barack Obama and Dan Hynes surged into a statistical tie, with 22 percent and 20 percent respectively; Hull came in with 15 percent. Among Republicans, Jack Ryan had a comfortable lead.
The poll was conducted by Maryland-based Research 2000 this week for The (Bloomington) Pantagraph and WEEK in Peoria. The margin of error was plus or minus five percentage points.
Hoping to ease the controversy over the allegations, Hull's campaign called a news conference at which his first wife, Kathy Hull Grivold, described him as "a man of integrity." She said in their 28 years of marriage, "I never witnessed any acts of violence - he treated me well."
But Friday night, Sexton, Hull's second wife, issued a statement saying she was "shocked and hurt" by his remarks that her 1998 complaints about his "ungovernable temper" were prompted by a desire to increase her divorce settlement.
She agreed to a $3.4 million settlement a few days after getting a court order of protection; the protection order was then withdrawn.
"I am devastated to learn that he values his candidacy above my friendship, my trust and my efforts to support him in this difficult time in my life," Sexton said.
She said her account was accurate of the night in February 1998, when she says he not only struck her on the leg and called her a crude name, but also dug his nails into her foot and threw punches in her direction in an effort to make her flinch.
"I no longer will permit Blair to exploit my desire for privacy," she said in a statement. "I will not be victimized by him again about the events surrounding our divorce."
Last week, Sexton said she supported Hull's candidacy.
© 2004 The Associated Press