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Ryan Checks Out of Hotel Senate Race

WASHINGTON – Illinois senatorial candidate Jack Ryan abruptly abandoned his bid for Congress on Friday, succumbing to a furor over sex club allegations that horrified fellow Republicans and made him a target of late-night comedy.

“It’s clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race,” said the 44-year-old Ryan, who won his party’s nomination in a multi-candidate primary earlier this year.

“What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign – the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.”

Illinois GOP leaders expressed relief. “Jack Ryan made the right decision. I know it must have been a difficult one,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who made his feelings known by canceling a fund-raising event scheduled for Thursday with the senatorial hopeful.

Top Illinois Republicans held a teleconference to begin the work of selecting a successor to Ryan on the ballot this fall. Their choice will become an instant underdog in a campaign against Democratic State Sen. Barack Obama.

Even so, party leaders wanted to avoid the possibility that candidates for other offices in Illinois would suffer by sharing a ticket with a senatorial candidate battling salacious allegations by his former wife.

After reviewing the polling results, Ryan’s advisers told the candidate Friday morning that he could survive the scandal but only after an extremely negative and expensive response. “I won’t do that,” Ryan replied, according to a participant in the meeting. “That’s not me.”

The internal polling had Ryan trailing Obama 20 percent to 25 percent, the official said. That figure didn’t worry aides as much as results showing that conservatives were abandoning Ryan. They concluded that the only way to get Ryan’s base back would be to go negative immediately on Obama and not let up.

Before the voters got a chance to decide on Ryan’s political fate, fellow Illinois Republican politicians rendered their own judgments. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald urged him to remain in the race, but he was virtually alone.

The state’s GOP House members met privately on Thursday and officials said afterward the sentiment was unanimous that Ryan should step down. “There must be something to them, ” said Rep. Henry Hyde, referring to the disputed allegations.

Word of Ryan’s unsealed records soon reached comedy writers. “Jack Ryan, I’ve heard of going after the ‘swing vote,’ but this is ridiculous!”, jabbed Jay Leno.

Several names of potential successor candidates quickly surfaced, including state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and dairy owner Jim Oberweis, both of whom lost to Ryan in the primary, and former state Board of Education chairman Ron Gidwitz.

Additionally, other GOP officials floated the name of Patrick Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney in Illinois. Fitzgerald has achieved national prominence recently with his appointment to head a probe into the leak of a CIA operative’s name to a journalist. He interviewed President Bush earlier this week for more than an hour as part of the effort.

Polls have shown Ryan trailing Obama from the start of their race. The Senate election is to replace Peter Fitzgerald, who decided not to seek a second term.

Ryan has been struggling for political survival since Monday, when divorce records were released showing that his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, said he took her to sex clubs and tried to pressure her to perform sex acts while others watched. Ryan has denied the allegations.

In his prepared statement, Ryan sharply attacked the media for its involvement in winning the release of sealed records.

“The media has gotten out of control. The fact that The Chicago Tribune sues for access to sealed custody documents and then takes unto itself the right to public details of a custody dispute – over the objections of two parents who agree that the re-airing of their arguments will hurt their ability to co-parent their child and hurt their child – is truly outrageous,” he said.

Although Fitzgerald and the National Republican Senatorial Committee stood by Ryan, he came under immediate pressure from many GOP officials in his home state to relinquish his nomination.

Members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation met with Hastert on Thursday to discuss the issue, and one official said afterward that the speaker concurred that Ryan needed to step aside.

Fitzgerald said Friday that he had encouraged Ryan to stay in the race, calling the response to the scandal “grotesque.”

“I told him that it troubled me greatly that so many party leaders who had no trouble stomaching years and years of corruption and insider deals and scandals under George Ryan were now lining up to throw stones at Jack (no relation to George Ryan),” Fitzgerald said.

Ryan, 44, was seen by many as the party’s best hope of revitalization after a devastating 2002 election, in which Illinois Republicans lost control of the governor’s office and nearly every statewide office, and an ongoing corruption scandal involving former Gov. George Ryan, who has since been indicted.

But those hopes were dashed by the unsealing of his divorce records. Ryan had fought the unsealing, saying it would harm his 9-year-old son. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago TV station WLS sued to have the records released. that horrified fellow Republicans and made him a target of late-night comedy.

“It’s clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race,” said the 44-year-old Ryan, who won his party’s nomination in a multi-candidate primary earlier this year.

“What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign – the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.” Illinois GOP leaders expressed relief. “Jack Ryan made the right decision. I know it must have been a difficult one,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who made his feelings known by canceling a fund-raising event scheduled for Thursday with the senatorial hopeful.

Top Illinois Republicans held a teleconference to begin the work of selecting a successor to Ryan on the ballot this fall. Their choice will become an instant underdog in a campaign against Democratic State Sen. Barack Obama.

Even so, party leaders wanted to avoid the possibility that candidates for other offices in Illinois would suffer by sharing a ticket with a senatorial candidate battling salacious allegations by his former wife.

After reviewing the polling results, Ryan’s advisers told the candidate Friday morning that he could survive the scandal but only after an extremely negative and expensive response. “I won’t do that,” Ryan replied, according to a participant in the meeting. “That’s not me.”

The internal polling had Ryan trailing Obama 20 percent to 25 percent, the official said. That figure didn’t worry aides as much as results showing that conservatives were abandoning Ryan. They concluded that the only way to get Ryan’s base back would be to go negative immediately on Obama and not let up.

Before the voters got a chance to decide on Ryan’s political fate, fellow Illinois Republican politicians rendered their own judgments. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald urged him to remain in the race, but he was virtually alone.

The state’s GOP House members met privately on Thursday and officials said afterward the sentiment was unanimous that Ryan should step down. “There must be something to them, ” said Rep. Henry Hyde, referring to the disputed allegations.

Word of Ryan’s unsealed records soon reached comedy writers. “Jack Ryan, I’ve heard of going after the ‘swing vote,’ but this is ridiculous!”, jabbed Jay Leno.

Several names of potential successor candidates quickly surfaced, including state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and dairy owner Jim Oberweis, both of whom lost to Ryan in the primary, and former state Board of Education chairman Ron Gidwitz.

Additionally, other GOP officials floated the name of Patrick Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney in Illinois. Fitzgerald has achieved national prominence recently with his appointment to head a probe into the leak of a CIA operative’s name to a journalist. He interviewed President Bush earlier this week for more than an hour as part of the effort.

Polls have shown Ryan trailing Obama from the start of their race. The Senate election is to replace Peter Fitzgerald, who decided not to seek a second term.

Ryan has been struggling for political survival since Monday, when divorce records were released showing that his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, said he took her to sex clubs and tried to pressure her to perform sex acts while others watched. Ryan has denied the allegations.

In his prepared statement, Ryan sharply attacked the media for its involvement in winning the release of sealed records.

“The media has gotten out of control. The fact that The Chicago Tribune sues for access to sealed custody documents and then takes unto itself the right to public details of a custody dispute – over the objections of two parents who agree that the re-airing of their arguments will hurt their ability to co-parent their child and hurt their child – is truly outrageous,” he said.

Although Fitzgerald and the National Republican Senatorial Committee stood by Ryan, he came under immediate pressure from many GOP officials in his home state to relinquish his nomination.

Members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation met with Hastert on Thursday to discuss the issue, and one official said afterward that the speaker concurred that Ryan needed to step aside.

Fitzgerald said Friday that he had encouraged Ryan to stay in the race, calling the response to the scandal “grotesque.”

“I told him that it troubled me greatly that so many party leaders who had no trouble stomaching years and years of corruption and insider deals and scandals under George Ryan were now lining up to throw stones at Jack (no relation to George Ryan),” Fitzgerald said.

Ryan, 44, was seen by many as the party’s best hope of revitalization after a devastating 2002 election, in which Illinois Republicans lost control of the governor’s office and nearly every statewide office, and an ongoing corruption scandal involving former Gov. George Ryan, who has since been indicted.

But those hopes were dashed by the unsealing of his divorce records. Ryan had fought the unsealing, saying it would harm his 9-year-old son. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago TV station WLS sued to have the records released.
 

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