Published July 28, 2004
CHICAGO – Illinois Republicans on Wednesday called a meeting to try to replace Jack Ryan (search) as the party's U.S. Senate candidate, even as Ryan left himself on the ballot nearly five weeks after saying he would quit the race amid scandal.
"We really can't wait anymore. He's dragged this on too long," party chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka (search) said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Topinka said the State Central Committee will meet Tuesday in Chicago to discuss "the office and either discuss him being on the ballot and how do we get him off, or, if he's already gotten off, discuss the candidates and make our appointment."
The 19-member State Central Committee cannot officially pick a replacement for Ryan until he takes his name off the ballot.
The millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher said he would exit the race after embarrassing allegations by his ex-wife, "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public" actress Jeri Ryan, became public. In custody papers, she accused him of taking her to sex clubs against her will and asking her to have sex with him in front of others.
Ryan isn't saying why he hasn't taken his name off the ballot, and neither are his aides. Although he has repeatedly and publicly promised to withdraw, he also has said, apparently jokingly, that he would reconsider if thousands of people showed up at his door and asked.
Previously, Ryan has explained remaining on the ballot by saying he was out of state or did not have time to file the paperwork, a half-page form that would take about a minute to complete.
"All you can do is take him at his word. The public, hearing that he's going to get off, thinks it's a fait accompli. So why has he not done it?" said Topinka.
Ryan's campaign has not returned repeated phone calls for comment on the matter.
State Republican leaders are frustrated, and the uncertainty about who will be atop the ticket is a lingering embarrassment. At the same time, a rosy glow surrounds the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.
The state senator from Chicago delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night to rave reviews, and the national media have labeled him a rising star in the party.
If Ryan drops out by Aug. 27, the party can put another candidate on the ballot.
"I'm disturbed that Jack hasn't made a decision or not resigned," said Ronald Smith, secretary of the State Central Committee. "He knows that it takes a lot of time to do something like this, put things together and organize your team."
Topinka insisted Republicans are poised to leap into action once Ryan vacates the ballot, saying the party has been ready for weeks.
"We've got a number of candidates. I think two may be especially appealing," she said, but would not identify them. "They're all going to offer their credentials" to the party committee, she said.
Many party stalwarts and well-known GOP figures have already turned down the chance to run for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. They include former Govs. Jim Edgar and James Thompson and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.