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IL Republicans Scramble to Find Candidate for Senate

Ill. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald will not seek reelection in 2004.
(file photo)
Ill. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald will not seek reelection in 2004.

By AP/IL Public Radio/KWMU

Springfield, Ill. – Always a popular figure, former Governor Jim Edgar has quickly become one of the GOPs top choice for the 2004 U.S. Senate race.

Republican incumbent Peter Fitzgerald of Inverness announced Tuesday he would not seek reelection. Hours later top state Republicans were courting Edgar.

Republican National Committee member Bob Kjellander called Edgar a "dream candidate."

But Edgar has twice rejected party appeals to run for the Senate. He retired from politics as a popular incumbent in 1999 and now works as a consultant and professor at the University of Illinois. He admits he has thought about elective office since leaving, noting there have been "moments in the last four or five years I've thought it would be intriguing." But the former governor quipped: "Usually my sanity returns and I move on."

And while he says he is not ready to enter a race, he says he is listening to what those around him have to say.

Other Republicans being considered are Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, and last year's candidates for governor: Former Attorney General Jim Ryan; Former Lt. Governor Corrine Wood; and former state senator Patrick O'Malley.

Topinka, who is also the state's GOP chief, says other possible candidates include 10th district Congressman Mark Kirk and 11th district Congressman Jerry Weller.

Fitzgerald faced a potentially tough race. An independently wealthy banker, he clashed repeatedly with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Illinois Republicans. Fitzgerald's seat is considered critical to Republican control of the Senate, where the GOP holds a slight majority.