updated 3/16/2004 12:51:19 PM ET 2004-03-16T17:51:19

For weeks, the candidates for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat have been repeating the old adage that the only poll that matters is the one held on Election Day.

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The poll that matters arrived Tuesday.

Election officials said Tuesday morning that a late-season snowstorm might keep voters away early, but they predicted numbers would increase as the day progressed.

“Of course, there’s more people when its warmer,” said the Rev. Dan McCurry, who has been an election judge in Chicago for 38 years. “What often happens is that there will be a major rush at the end of the day.”

Fifteen Republicans and Democrats vied to win their party’s nomination and go on to replace retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald in a contest both national parties view as a key to determining control of the narrowly divided Senate.

The candidates’ ads leading up to the primary stayed away from attack ads and focused instead on issues ranging from health care to immigration.

But in the past three weeks, the release of one candidate’s divorce records and the refusal of another to unseal his have seized the headlines, and several candidates have admitted using drugs during their college years.

Ryan shies away from spotlight
Leading Republican Jack Ryan largely shied away from the media spotlight in the final days of campaigning after Republican leaders and rivals began publicly urging him to unseal records in his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan (“Boston Public”) — arguments that surfaced after Democrat Blair Hull released his own divorce records revealing he hit his former wife, sending his poll numbers plunging.

Ryan, an investment banker turned teacher and one of seven millionaires in the race, maintains the records are sealed to protect his 9-year-old son and has refused calls to let the state party chairwoman view the records so she can confirm they contain nothing damaging.

The latest statewide poll still showed Ryan leading the Republican field by a wide margin, however it was conducted early last week before Ryan’s divorce became an issue.

Ryan was facing business executive Andy McKenna, dairy owner Jim Oberweis, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and four other candidates.

State Sen. Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer hoping to become only the fifth black U.S. senator, led among Democrats, followed by Dan Hynes, state’s comptroller; Hull, a securities trader; and other Democrats in single digits.

After he cast his ballot Tuesday morning, Obama shook voters’ hands and said he saw “a lot of energy on the part of Democratic voters ... people who are angered by the direction that the country is taking.”

After voting for Ryan on Tuesday, Kim Snoddy, 40, said she didn’t think the flap over his divorce files would hurt his chances at winning the Senate seat.

“I think to counter what happened with Hull, (Ryan’s opponents) may be pushing the issue to make him look bad,” she said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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