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The Illinois Senate career of Barack Obama stretched from 1996 to 2004, when Barack Obama was elected to the United States Senate. Starting in 1993 and throughout his state senate career, Obama also taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School, as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996 and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996-2004, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

State elections

First state Senate election, 1996

On November 21, 1994, state Sen. Alice Palmer (D-13) of South Shoremarker announced she was launching a campaign committee to raise funds to run in 1996 for the 2nd Congressional District seat of indicted U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, and suggested that 29-year-old Jesse Jackson, Jr. run for her state Senate seat in 1996 instead of running against her for Congress.

On June 27, 1995, Palmer announced she was running for Congress and would be giving up her state Senate seat instead of running for re-election in 1996.The following week newspapers reported that Palmer-supporter Barack Obama of Hyde Parkmarker—who had been announced as chairman of the $49.2 million Chicago Annenberg Challenge on June 22 and whose memoir Dreams from My Father would be published on July 18—would announce he was running and would be a front-runner for Palmer's state Senate seat.

On September 11, 1995, Illinois Governor Jim Edgar set November 28 as the date for a special primary election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mel Reynolds following his August 1995 conviction.

On September 19, 34-year-old Barack Obama announced his candidacy for Palmer's state Senate seat to an audience of 200 supporters at the Ramada Inn Lakeshore in Hyde Parkmarker-Kenwoodmarker.
Palmer introduced and endorsed Obama as her successor to supporters that included 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle of Hyde Park, newly elected 5th Ward Ald. Barbara Holt of Hyde Park, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) of Hyde Park, and many other politicians.

On November 7, 1995, Obama's mother Ann died of metastatic uterine cancer at the age of 52 in Honolulumarker.

Obama arrived in Hawaii the following day, remained for his mother's memorial service and returned to Chicago soon after. On November 28, after finishing a distant third in the 2nd Congressional District special primary election won by 30-year-old Jesse Jackson, Jr., a disappointed 56-year-old Alice Palmer told a small gathering that she wouldn't seek re-election to the state Senate and was undecided about entering the March 1996 primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

On December 11, 1995—the first filing day for nominating petitions—Obama filed his nominating petitions with over 3,000 signatures; perennial unsuccessful candidate Ulmer Lynch, Jr. also filed nominating petitions to run for the 13th District state Senate seat. On December 18—the last filing day for nominating petitions—Palmer held a press conference to announce she was running for re-election to the state Senate, accepting a draft by over 100 supporters.

Palmer then drove to Springfieldmarker to file her nominating petitions; also filing nominating petitions on the last filing day were first-time candidates Gha-is Askia and Marc Ewell. On December 26, Obama campaign volunteer Ron Davis filed objections to the legitimacy of the nominating petitions of incumbent state Sen. Palmer, and to those of Askia, Ewell and Lynch.

On January 17, 1996, Palmer announced she was withdrawing her bid for re-election because she was a couple of hundred signatures short of the 757 needed to earn a place on the ballot after almost two-thirds of the 1,580 signatures on her nominating petitions were found to be invalid.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners had previously sustained an objection to the nominating petitions of Lynch because of insufficient valid signatures, and subsequently also sustained objections to the nominating petitions of Askia and Ewell because of insufficient valid signatures.

In the March 19, 1996 primary election, Obama, running unopposed on the ballot, won the Democratic nomination for state Senator for the 13th District. In the November 5 general election, Obama was elected state Senator for the 13th District, winning 82% of the vote; perennial unsuccessful Harold Washington Party candidate David Whitehead received 13% of the vote, and first-time Republican Party candidate Rosette Caldwell Peyton received 5% of the vote.

On January 8, 1997, Obama was sworn in for a two-year term as state Senator for the 13th District, which was then a T-shaped district that spanned Chicago South Sidemarker neighborhoods from Hyde Park-Kenwood south through South Shore and from the lakefront west through Chicago Lawnmarker.

State Sen. District 13 = State Rep. Districts 25 & 26.

Second state Senate election, 1998

In the March 17, 1998 primary election, Obama, running unopposed on the ballot, won the Democratic nomination for state Senator for the 13th District, and Yesse Yehudah, running unopposed on the ballot, won the Republican nomination. In the November 3 general election, Obama was re-elected to a four-year term as state Senator for the 13th District with 89% of the vote; first-time Republican Party candidate Yesse Yehudah received 11% of the vote.

Third state Senate election, 2002

On September 5, 2001, Democrats won a lottery that added a tie-breaking ninth member to the bipartisan state Legislative Redistricting Commission, which on September 25, by a 5–4 party-line vote, approved the Democratic "Currie II as amended by the Bilandic Amendment" map.

After redistricting, the new 13th District spanned Chicago lakefrontmarker neighborhoods from the Gold Coastmarker south through South Chicagomarker; with a population that was 66% black versus 77% black in the old 13th District.

In the March 19, 2002 primary election, Obama, running unopposed on the ballot, won the Democratic nomination for state Senator for the new 13th District. In the November 5 general election, Obama, running unopposed on the ballot, was re-elected to a four-year term as state Senator for the new 13th District.

Early Senate career

Early in his first term, the just-retired U.S. Senator Paul Simon called a longtime Obama mentor, judge and former congressman Abner Mikva. Simon suggested that Mikva recommend Obama to Emil Jones, Jr., the powerful Democratic leader of the state Senate. "'Say, our friend Barack Obama has a chance to push this campaign finance bill through,'" Simon said in a telephone conversation, as recounted by Mikva in a 2008 interview. "'Why don’t you call your friend Emil Jones and tell him how good he is.'" With Jones' support, Obama helped pass a sweeping law that banned most gifts from lobbyists and personal use of campaign funds by state legislators.

During his first years as a state senator, Obama was a co-sponsor of a bill which re-structured the Illinois welfare program into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. He was also involved in various pieces of legislation which established a $100 million Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, increased child care subsidies for low-income families, and required advance notice before mass layoffs and plant closings.

Campaign for Bobby Rush's congressional seat

In September 1999, Obama and fellow state Senator Donne Trotter both announced their candidacies for the March 2000 Democratic primary election for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. Rush had been badly defeated in the February 1999 Chicago Mayoral election by Richard M. Daley—who won 45% of the African-American vote and even won Rush's own ward—and was thought to be vulnerable. The support of some veteran Democratic fundraisers who saw Obama as a rising star, along with support of African-American entrepreneurs, helped him keep pace with Rush's fundraising in the district's most expensive race ever.

During the campaign, Rush charged that Obama was not sufficiently rooted in Chicago's black neighborhoods to represent constituents' concerns, and also benefitted from an outpouring of sympathy when his son was shot to death shortly before the election. Obama said Rush was a part of "a politics that is rooted in the past" and said he himself could build bridges with whites to get things done. But while Obama did well in his own Hyde Park base, he didn't get enough support from the surrounding black neighborhoods. Starting with just 10 percent name recognition, Obama went on to get only 31 percent of the votes, losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin despite winning among white voters. Despite losing the 2000 Congressional primary and not running for Illinois Senate as he had in 1996, 1998, and 2002, Obama did not lose his Illinois Senate seat because the Illinois Senate elections are on a 2-4-4 year cycle.

Later Senate career

After losing the primary for U.S. Congress to Bobby Rush, Obama worked to repair relations with black politicians and clergy members, telling them he bore no grudges against the victor. He also became more responsive to requests for state funding, getting money for churches and community groups in his district. State Senator Donne E. Trotter, then the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in 2008 that he knew Obama was responding more to funding requests "because the community groups in his district stopped coming to me".

In September 2001, Democrats won a lottery to redraw legislative districts that had been drawn ten years earlier by Republicans and had helped ensure ten uninterrupted years of Republican control of the Illinois Senate. In the November 2002 election, the Democratic remap helped them win control of the Illinois Senate and expand their majority in the Illinois House to work with the first Democratic Illinois governor in 26 years.

In January 2003, after six years on the committee and four years as its minority spokesman, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. The new Democratic majority allowed Obama to write and pass more legislation than in previous years. He sponsored successful efforts to expand children's health care, create a plan to provide equal health care access for all Illinois residents, and create a "Hospital Report Card" system, and worker's rights laws that protected whistleblowers, domestic violence victims, equal pay for women, and overtime pay. His most public accomplishment was a bill requiring police to videotape interrogations and confessions in potential death penalty cases. Obama was willing to listen to Republicans and police organizations and negotiate compromises to get the law passed. That helped him develop a reputation as a pragmatist able to work with various sides of an issue. Obama also led the passage of a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped.

He resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate.


  1. See also: See also:
  2. Becker, Jo and Drew, Christopher, "Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side", The New York Times, May 11, 2008, retrieved July 28, 2008
  3. Federal Election Commission, 2000 U.S. House of Representatives Results. See also: and
  4. See also: and
  5. Illinois Constitution Article IV, Section 2(a)
  6. See also:

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