Senate likely to be less diverse after Nov. elections

Associated Press | 2/10/2010, 3:26 a.m.

Five-term Rep. Mark Kirk won the GOP nomination and Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias walked away with the Democratic nod. Both are white.

Illinois has a history of sending black senators to Washington, with three of the nation’s four black senators in modern times coming from the state.

The first black senator in the 20th century was Edward W. Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican who served from 1967 until 1979. The first to hold the Illinois seat was Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat who won it in 1992. She lost six years later to Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who is white and didn’t seek a second term. Obama captured the seat in 2004 by trouncing another black candidate, conservative Republican Alan Keyes. Obama relinquished the seat when he was elected president and it was filled by Burris.

Burris was appointed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich after Blagojevich was arrested for allegedly trying to sell Obama’s seat.

Obama’s former seat is now a prime takeover target for Republicans. The attention on it has intensified since the GOP’s upset win in Massachusetts last month claimed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat.

For some in Illinois, the bigger embarrassment would be for Obama’s old seat to fall to the GOP.

For his part, Kirk borrows a line from Massachusetts’s new U.S. senator: “I think that this seat is not owned by any one particular group or politician. It’s owned by the people of Illinois.”

Associated Press