Moseley-Braun loses to Republican Fitzgerald
Democratic senator had troubled campaign
(AllPolitics, November 3) -- Republican state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald has defeated Illinois incumbent Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, the first black female senator.
Although Moseley-Braun had been in trouble for most of her re-election campaign, the results Tuesday night were closer than expected.
Visibly exhausted and still battling the remnants of a bout with pneumonia she suffered in September, Moseley-Braun campaigned right up until the end despite trailing nearly 10 points in the polls.
A conservative multimillionaire, the 38-year-old Fitzgerald made only a few public appearances in the waning days of his campaign. Analysts said this was a calculated political strategy.
"After six years of scandal and controversy, Carol Moseley-Braun resorts to fabrication, continuing a barrage of negative ads," one Fitzgerald ad claimed.
"He is in (a) kind of a candidate-protection program," Democratic consultant David Axelrod said. "They've created a new identity for him on television while he stays out of sight."
Fitzgerald never spoke during his TV ads. He answered a Chicago Tribune editorial board's questionnaire, but asked the newspaper, which has endorsed him, not to print the answers on its Web site, because, he says, Moseley-Braun would distort them.
"She picks out these little things, distorts it and then puts it in as a citation on her distorted attack ads," Fitzgerald said.
There was a glimmer of hope for the first-term senator when polls showed she began to close Fitzgerald's double-digit lead late in the week before election day. President Bill Clinton did a fund-raiser for her, and the first lady appeared at an education event with her.
"We need Carol Moseley-Braun in there holding their feet to the fire to make sure we get those teachers in this school and other schools in Illinois," Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
Despite the fund-raising help, money remained an issue, and changing the focus of the campaign was hard for Moseley-Braun because Fitzgerald heavily outspent her.
"I mean, you can buy an election," Moseley-Braun said. "With enough money, I can make myself Ivana Trump."
Moseley-Braun's term was marked by controversy, including trips to Nigeria to visit the late dictator Sani Abacha, campaign finance questions and a blowup in which she compared columnist George Will to a Ku Klux Klansman. "I mean this very sincerely from the bottom of my heart: He can take his hood and put it back on again, as far as I'm concerned," Moseley-Braun told WFLD.
"That was terrible. I lost my temper, that's exactly what happened," she said later.
"She's contributed greatly to her own problems because she's had a series of controversies that have built on each other to the point where her negatives today are nearing 50 percent, and it's very hard for anyone to win an election with those kind of negatives," said Axelrod.
Moseley-Braun ran an ad acknowledging mistakes, hoping to turn the debate towards issues. "I know I've made mistakes and disappointed some people, but I want you to know that I've always tried to do what's best for Illinois," she said in the ad.
In one of their debates, Moseley-Braun tried to attack Fitzgerald's stance on abortion; Fitzgerald opposes it except to save the life of the mother, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
"Believe me when I tell you, the idea of carrying somebody's, some rapist's child, is anathema to most women," Moseley-Braun told Fitzgerald in the debate.
Moseley-Braun was elected in 1992, when many women were active and angry, many of them over the Senate Judiciary Committee's treatment of Anita Hill.
Moseley-Braun ran unopposed in her Democratic primary this year.
Fitzgerald won the Republican primary against state Comptroller Loleta Didrickson despite last-minute appeals from Republican moderates who said that nominating a pro-gun, anti-abortion conservative could ruin any chances of defeating Moseley-Braun.
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