Illinois Senate: The Candidates
Carol Moseley-Braun (D) | Peter Fitzgerald (R)
Moseley-Braun rode the wave of outrage over Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings to victory in the 1992 Democratic U.S. Senate primary. She defeated two-term incumbent Alan J. Dixon, who voted to confirm Thomas, and went on to beat Richard S. Williamson (R) in the general election, 53-43 percent. Born and bred in Chicago, Moseley-Braun is the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Her stint in the Illinois House from 1978 to 1988 included one year as majority leader (1983). Known as a champion of women's and minority issues, Moseley-Braun won attention for her opposition to welfare reform measures in 1996 and for her 1993 floor speech opposing the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The first-term senator has faced her share of controversy, including sexual harassment complaints against her campaign manager and former fiancé, Kgosie Matthews, and a 1996 visit with the Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha, whose human rights record she had denounced. Even Moseley-Braun's supporters acknowledge that these incidents have hurt her candidacy. She is one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents, though Republican Gov. Jim Edgar's decision not to enter the race has buoyed her reelection effort.
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Peter Fitzgerald (R)
As state Comptroller, Didrickson is the highest ranking Republican woman elected in Illinois history. Her candidacy was a result of both circumstance and the strong urging of state Republican officials. Didrickson originally said in May 1997 Didrickson that she would not seek the U.S. Senate seat. Party leaders turned up the heat after Gov. Jim Edgar (R) announced his retirement from politics in August. In October, Didrickson said she would run for secretary of state, and finally announced her Senate bid in November. She quickly picked up support from both Edgar and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, who signed on as her national campaign chair. Before she won election as comptroller, Didrickson served three years as director of Edgar's department of employment security, and four terms in the Illinois House.
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