Voice Your Choice Election ’98

By Web Master

David C. Kinnard

Senior Correspondent

Only seven months ago, Illinois state party bosses were troubled over staunch conservative Peter Fitzgerald’s mere presence on the primary ballot for the U.S. Senate election, preferring the more moderate Loleta Jackson as the GOP challenger to incumbent Carol Moseley-Braun.

But Fitzgerald, a millionaire from Inverness was, somehow able to finesse his way onto the November 3 ballot. Earlier in Fitzgerald’s campaign, Republican leaders were qualmish of his right-wing extremist views, which he continues to stick to. The difference now is that Moseley-Braun has brought enough garish poison upon herself that, despite Fitzgerald’s heavy political baggage, the GOP has a chance in this year’s senate race.

The most recent Chicago Tribune poll shows not only a commanding 10% lead for Fitzgerald over Moseley-Braun but also a substantial slip in the senator’s approval rating; a tumble that has been consistent throughout the last year of her current term.

The challenge for Moseley-Braun now is to shed some of that ugly skin that pocked her first senatorial term. Acknowledging mistakes in her personal and public past, as well as embarrassing herself in a tawdry war of words with columnist George Will, have had negative repercussions among the state electorate, especially women voters.

The Tribune poll shows Fitzgerald holding a substantial 2-1 lead over Moseley-Braun among suburban Cook County females.

What’s worse for Moseley-Braun is the political corner she’s currently backing herself into. Six years ago, during her first campaign, she gained nationwide notice for denouncing Clarence Thomas and the nearly all-male Senate that condoned his nomination to the US Supreme Court after Anita Hill testified that she had been sexually harassed by him during her employment in his office. It should prove to be interesting come Oct. 16, when sex-scandal-cursed Bill Clinton comes to Chicago to raise money for Moseley-Braun’s dept-plagued campaign.

If she censures Clinton with the same vigor as she did with Clarence Thomas in ‘92, she also runs the risk of undermining a president who upholds many other social issues that could prove vital in her bid for re-election.

This could prove to be the worst kind of political suicide.

The Democrat is responding to these issues by lashing out at Fitzgerald’s “soft spots” via television ads, admonishing his position on social issues such as gun control, abortion, and his seemingly Libertarian stance on the federal government’s interest in public affairs.

Although Fitzgerald has supported efforts to hire more police, law-enforcement officers are “scared to death” of his blessing of letting citizens carry concealed weapons.

His stand on abortion seems to be the strongest contention that Moseley-Braun has to work with. He whole heartedly opposes it, even in cases of rape or incest, although he does not favor incarcerating women in such cases. Fitzgerald is also maneuvering around the education issue; he is an outspoken opponent of federal involvement in education and also fought against expanding federal aid for college students.

Despite Moseley-Braun’s attempt to scare voters into voting for her, Fitzgerald has responded to her strikes by touting his “centrist” position on gun control and upholding his support of the Brady Bill as well as belittling her criticism by claiming the senior senator has an “unwillingness to shoot straight.” Fitzgerald can well afford to defend himself with an ever-growing campaign fund and his own personal war chest of $40 million.

Being born into a banking empire, gaining an Ivy League education and working for a blue chip Loop law firm have set up Fitzgerald for the position he is now in, and it looks like he’ll fight with all he’s got. With Illinois voters shifting from Democratic to Republican, this should prove to be an interesting election year, albeit not a new scenario.

This fight seems to be a classic battle between the Donkeys and the Grand Old Party. With all of this talk nowadays of “socially liberal Republicans” and “centralist” stances being taken on all sides, it’s interesting to see the opposite happening in the senatorial race.

Fitzgerald’s audacious wielding of the conservative banderole is the kind we haven’t seen since extremist Pat Buchanan’s effort for president two years ago, and Carol Moseley-Braun is today’s quintessential Democrat, complete with a marred political past and love of big government to boot.

It will be a sure showdown and no one knows what the voters will do come the Nov. 3 election. We can be sure that Fitzgerald and Moseley-Braun will attack each other like vicious dogs for the next five weeks. Bullets will fly, mud will be slung, women and children will weep at it’s ugliness, and in the end only esoteric mathematical data will prevail by providing that final resolution as to who is good and who is evil.