Meister drops out, backs Giannoulias for Senate

January 31, 2010 9:12:52 PM PST
There is now one less candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Illinois.Attorney Jacob Meister has dropped out. The remaining candidates were campaigning all day across the city, and one of them speculated aloud that Meister may have been a plant.

"It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I ask my supporters to join to elect Alexi Giannoulias the next senator from the state of Illinois," said Meister. "Today, we have a candidate who stands above the rest, a person who will adopt my 20/20 vision and use it to benefit Illinois and the nation."

Saying he's putting his political ambitions aside, to do what's best for his political party, Jacob Meister officially dropped out of the Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate Sunday and threw his support to front-running candidate Alexi Giannoulias.

"I want his supporters to know that you should not be disappointed. You should be doubly proud of his actions because it takes a man of undeniable character to do what he did today," Giannoulias said.

The Sunday announcement was made before a crowd of supporters, organized labor, and elected officials and came after Meister - the state's first openly-gay candidate to run for the United States Senate - spent $1 million on his campaign and downstate television ads that only netted him single-digit support.

While making a final push for votes at the House of Hope, rival candidate and former Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson called Meister's departure inconsequential and accused the little-known attorney of only being in the race to help Giannoulias' campaign.

"He attacked me, and he attacked Hoffman, and never the treasurer and didn't find anything wrong with the latest issues and scandals around the Broadway Bank. So, this was not a surprise," Jackson said. "I thought Jacob Meister was helping the treasurer all along."

Giannoulias' family owns Broadway Bank, which is now in trouble. Because he was a senior loan officer there before becoming Illinois' treasurer three years ago, his rivals say the bank's problems, and those of the state's Bright Start program, which his office oversees, speak to the Chicago Democrat's financial competence.

"What's happening with Broadway Bank is happening with banks all over America. It's not that anyone did anything wrong or illegal. It's unfortunate," said Meister.

Giannoulias calls any charge that Meister was in the race to help him ridiculous. He also calls it a political attack as the Illinois Democrats, including former Chicago Inspector Gen. David Hoffman, fight to keep the Senate seat out of Republican hands.

"He [Meister] has been focusing his attacks on me and has always refused to say negative things about Mr. Giannoulias, something I know the media has been pointing out was somewhat suspect," Hoffman said. "We are very focused on what is clearing a surging campaign with a great deal of momentum. We believe we are going to win this race," Hoffman said.

"I put a tremendous amount of my own money into this campaign. I never would have done that to advance Alexi's campaign," Meister said.

Democrats are very concerned about the possible loss of this Senate seat, especially after what happened in the recent Massachusetts Senate race.

According to some polls, Giannoulias has the lead, followed by Hoffman and Jackson.

The leading Republican for the Senate seat, Congressman Mark Kirk, was campaigning downstate Sunday. He faces five other candidates.