Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The U.S. senator-elect from Illinois, Barack Obama, acknowledged applause from supporters yesterday during his acceptance speech in Chicago. His wife, Michelle, cheered in the background. The Hawaii native will replace Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

Punahou grad wins
Senate seat in Illinois

Barack Obama is just the third
black U.S. senator since Reconstruction

CHICAGO » Barack Obama, the Punahou School graduate who shot from obscurity to political stardom in mere months, trounced Republican Alan Keyes yesterday to claim a Senate seat in Illinois. He will be just the third black U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

Election 2004


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The resounding victory is the latest chapter in a rags-to-riches story for a man who grew up on the beaches of Hawaii and the streets of Indonesia barely knowing his father but has gone on to become a linchpin of the Democratic Party's future.

He gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention this year, delivering a message of national unity in a stirring speech that made him an overnight political sensation. National news shows and magazines profiled him, and the 43-year-old state senator from Chicago became a top draw for other Democrats' campaigns nationwide.

Obama will replace GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who declined to run for a second term.

Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother. He graduated from Punahou School in 1979.

Oahu resident Madelyn Dunham, Obama's maternal grandmother, was watching TV yesterday afternoon when CNN projected her grandson would win the race.

"I'm very proud of him," said Dunham, 82. She said she spoke to Obama a week ago, and he was upbeat because the polls showed him ahead.

Obama went into politics despite advice from his grandmother. She cautioned him about running for office, given the potential for "things to get a little nasty."

"I'd rather he was not in politics," Dunham said. "I'd rather he was in something more sensible, like the judiciary."

Before entering politics, Obama was the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and a civil rights lawyer in Chicago.

The Illinois campaign was one of the strangest races in state history -- a contest between a liberal political superstar and a conservative former ambassador who had never lived in Illinois. And Keyes was far from the GOP's top choice.

Investment banker-turned-teacher Jack Ryan won the Republican primary in March but dropped out of the race three months later after records were released from his divorce with his wife, Jeri. The documents revealed embarrassing allegations that the candidate took his wife to sex clubs in Paris, New York and New Orleans and tried to get her to perform sex acts with him while others watched.

Only in August did the Republican Party settle on a replacement candidate, offering the role to Keyes.

The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Rob Perez contributed to this report

State Elections Office


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