CHICAGO – Illinois Republican Jack Ryan gave up his Senate bid Friday, pressured by GOP outrage over sex club allegations contained in his divorce records.
In the documents released Monday, his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, stated that Ryan had taken her to clubs in Paris, New York and New Orleans, where he tried to force her to engage in sex acts in front of strangers.
Ryan, who repeatedly has denied the allegations, said in a statement Friday that it would be nearly impossible to continue his campaign.
“It’s clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race,” said Ryan, 44. “What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign – the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.”
The state Republican Party has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including losing the governorship and many other statewide offices in the 2002 elections.
Since the details of the divorce records were released, Illinois Republican leaders were among the first to call for Ryan to bow out.
“You’ve got to wonder why people don’t have the good sense to say to themselves: Well, I’ve got this skeleton in my closet, so I can’t really run for public office,’ ” said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California, Berkeley.
“A lot of people are extremely naive of the level of scrutiny they will go under when they run for office, particularly people in the private sector,” Cain said. “They assume that the stuff they get away with in their private life, they can get away with in public life. And, of course, they’re wrong, wrong, wrong.”
This was the first foray into the political arena for the self-made millionaire, who had quit the financial industry to teach at an inner-city school in Chicago.
For months, he has trailed the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Obama Barack, in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.
A poll conducted last month by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV showed that Barack held a 22-percentage-point lead over Ryan.
Illinois Republican leaders said they already are considering candidates to replace Ryan on the ballot in November, among them former state Board of Education chairman Ron Gidwitz, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and dairy owner Jim Oberweis.
Both Gidwitz and Oberweis lost to Ryan in the March primary.
“We intend to fight for this seat,” said Judy Baar Topinka, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “We will have a good candidate, a winning candidate.”