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June 22, 2004
Republican Senate Candidate Aims For Libertarian Vote

GOP hopeful Jack Ryan, currently slated to run against Democrat Barack Obama for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Peter Fiztgerald, has seen his candidacy blow up with the unsealing of his divorce records from TV star Jeri Lynn Ryan of "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public". Jack Ryan apparently did not sufficiently prepare GOP party leaders for the revelations contained in his ex-wife's filings:

Before Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan finished a news conference in which he discussed allegations by his former wife that he pressured her to have sex in clubs while others watched, calls for him to get out of the race began. ...

Jeri Lynn Ryan charged during a custody hearing that Ryan took her on surprise trips to New Orleans, New York and Paris in 1998, and that he insisted she go to sex clubs with him on each trip. She said that after going out to dinner with Ryan in New York, he demanded that she go to a club with him.

"It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling,'' she said. She said Ryan asked her to perform a sexual act while others watched, and she refused.

She said they left and Ryan apologized to her and said it was out of his system. But then, she said, he took her to Paris and again took her to a sex club. She said she cried and became physically ill at the club, and her husband got angry with her. She said she could never get over that incident.

Divorce cases, especially those involving young children, often generate extreme accusations in order to push judges into treating their claims sympathetically. Anything contained in such filings should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since in this case, both Ryans fought the release of the information. Chicago media outlets sued the California court for the information and Judge Robert Schnider agreed to make it public even though it would damage the Ryans' young son and would obviously impact Jack Ryan's election chances. Given all of that, it's not terribly clear why Judge Schnider would agree to unseal the affadavits; it looks like a pretty poor decision to me. If this is the only issue to come out of these files, I see no compelling reason to violate the Ryans' privacy in this manner.

All of that being said, the public revelation has shown Ryan to be less than honest with his GOP supporters. Ryan initially told party leaders that the files contained nothing more damaging than a mention of a club visit in Paris that they left by mutual agreement when the entertainment turned overtly sexual. Republican officials and supporters trusted Ryan when he made that claim, and that trust has obviously been abused. While the core issues involved in their divorce have little relevance to Ryan's candidacy, his attempt to cover up what he knew would damage both himself and the state GOP should cause Illinois Republicans to reconsider Ryan as an effective candidate in the fall. Some already are:

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, said Ryan needs to quit the campaign for the good of himself, his family and his party.

"There's no way the people of Illinois are going to countenance this behavior from a Senate candidate from the Republican Party,'' LaHood said.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar also distanced himself from supportive comments made earlier on Monday, before documents containing the allegations by Ryan's former wife, actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, were released. Edgar had said he had talked to Ryan about the custody documents related to the Ryans' divorce and was satisfied that they contained nothing "monumental'' and "we ought to move on.''

But after the documents were released, an aide said Edgar had not been given a full description of what was in the divorce files.

One voice that has remained quiet, so far, is that of Barack Obama, Ryan's opponent in the general election. The television station's web report notes that Obama's office declined to return phone calls from the media on this subject. It might indicate that Obama has more political savvy than Ryan, adhering to the rule that when one's opponent is intent on self-destruction, the best strategy is to get out of his way.

UPDATE: More here, including more evidence of feelings of betrayal among the local GOP:

Ryan refused requests from his opponents to release the file, saying it could harm his son and only dealt with custody matters. At one point, State Republican Party Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka said she asked him flatly whether there was anything embarrassing in the file. Topinka said Ryan assured her there was not.

"I consider him an honest man and I take him at his word," she said shortly before the primary, which Ryan won over seven opponents.

On Monday, a source close to Topinka, who is also the state treasurer, said she felt Ryan had misled her. "She stuck her neck out for him and he assured her nothing in those files was embarrassing to him or to the Republican Party," the source said. "There's a general feeling by a lot of people that they've been lied to."

The AP reports that Ryan intends to stay in the race. Expect that to change. Republicans police their own ranks, and I expect that within a week or two, Ryan will pull out and another candidate will be found to run against Obama.

Besides ... would you vote for a guy who needs more stimulation than this?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 22, 2004 7:06 AM

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