CHICAGO – The Illinois Republican Party left U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes (search) off a campaign mailer that touted "Your 2004 Republican Team," but both sides insist the omission was not a snub.
The promotion, which doubled as an absentee ballot application, went to hundreds of thousands of homes and mentioned President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) and candidates in congressional and legislative races.
GOP leaders said Keyes was not included in the mailer because he planned to send out comparable materials.
"People are reading too much into this," Illinois GOP spokesman Jason Gerwig told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. "We did our mailing and congressional candidates helped coordinate it. The Keyes campaign is doing its own thing."
Keyes spokesman Bill Pascoe said the campaign decided to send its own mailer after learning from party leaders that they were not sure if they would participate in an absentee ballot program.
"We've got 3 million that are being delivered," Pascoe said. "Some through mail, some through newspaper inserts, some through old-fashioned (literature) drops, depending on what part of the state we're talking about."
Some Illinois Republicans have shied away from publicly supporting the outspoken, ultraconservative Keyes, who badly trails Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the polls. State party chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka has said she supports Keyes, but she won't say if she will vote for him.
The GOP recruited Keyes from Maryland to run for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Keyes got into the race at the urging of conservative Republicans when the original GOP nominee, Jack Ryan, dropped out after the release of court documents showing his ex-wife claimed he pressured her to have sex in front of others.
A central message of Keyes' campaign has been that abortion and gay rights are eating away at America's moral fiber. He also is highly critical of trade agreements such as NAFTA, favors replacing the income tax with a national sales tax and opposes the principle of separation of church and state.
The Republican Party is trying to rebound after losing all but one statewide office during the 2002 election and a public corruption scandal involving former GOP Gov. George Ryan.