updated 6/18/2004 4:07:13 PM ET 2004-06-18T20:07:13

Republican Jack Ryan pushed ahead with his Senate campaign Friday despite a judge’s decision to unseal potentially embarrassing divorce papers, and party leaders said it was too early to speak of replacing him on the ballot.

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GOP national committeeman Robert Kjellander called any question of Ryan leaving the race “very premature.”

“I just think we have to wait and see what’s there and then we’ll deal with it,” he said.

A Ryan spokesman said the millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher was still deciding whether to appeal Thursday’s ruling. The papers will not be released immediately, and the judge gave the two sides until June 28 to appeal.

The ruling, from a Los Angeles judge, delivered a potentially powerful blow to Ryan in his race against Democrat Barack Obama for the seat opened by the retirement of GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

Ryan has said the child-custody records stemming from his 1995 divorce from “Boston Public” actress Jeri Lynn Ryan could prove embarrassing.

In a statement issued after the decision, Ryan said his priority was the couple’s 9-year-old son, Alex.

“Jeri Lynn and I are weighing our options, with our son’s best interests, and only our son’s best interests, in mind,” he said.

Public interest cited
Judge Charles Schnider ruled the public has a strong interest in knowing what is in the papers, even though the information could embarrass the candidate or harm his son.

“In the end, the balance tips slightly to the public,” Schnider said.

The records were requested by The Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV.

Pascoe said Ryan spent Friday morning shoring up support among top Republicans, speaking by phone with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., said Friday he and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have urged Ryan to make the documents public and get the questions behind him. He said it was too soon to speculate about whether Ryan should pull out of the race.

“I think that’s way, way premature, and I think it’s very presumptuous of anyone,” the Peoria congressman said. “I would not suggest that at all.”

The race is seen as a key chance for the Democrats to pick up a Senate seat from the GOP, which currently has 51 seats. Obama, a state senator seeking to become only the third black U.S. senator since Reconstruction, has been leading in the polls.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Democratic candidate would have no comment on the California ruling.

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