WASHINGTON – Former presidential hopeful and talk-show host Alan Keyes (search) has agreed to become Illinois Republicans' U.S. Senate candidate and will announce his intentions Sunday, a senior GOP official said Friday.
Keyes, a resident of Maryland, would face rising Democrat star Barack Obama (search) in the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (search), a Republican. The GOP was forced to look outside Illinois for a candidate after primary winner Jack Ryan (search) dropped out in late June amid embarrassing sex club allegations in his divorce records.
Keyes was carefully planning a high-profile introduction to Illinois voters, beginning Sunday, said the Republican official familiar with the decision. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing Keyes' wishes to make his announcement public Sunday.
The decision was first reported by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times in their Friday editions.
Bill Pascoe, a political adviser and Keyes friend, said he could not confirm that Keyes had accepted the nomination.
"Alan is honored and gratified by the offer that's been made to him. He recognizes it's the result of very serious and deliberate discussions and believes he owes it to member of the committee, to Republicans in Illinois and in fact every voter of Illinois to consider this offer with the same measure of deliberation," Pascoe said.
Keyes, a two-time presidential hopeful who also ran two failed Senate campaigns from his home state of Maryland, opposes abortion and gay rights, wants to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, and calls affirmative action a "government patronage program."
Obama, a state senator making his first run for national office, gained prominence as a keynote speaker at last month's Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The race would be the first U.S. Senate election with two black candidates representing the major parties and almost assure Illinois would produce the fifth black senator in history.
Keyes will have to establish residency in Illinois by Election Day, according to federal law.