updated 7/22/2004 9:57:38 AM ET 2004-07-22T13:57:38

State Sen. Kirk Dillard joined the parade of prospects declining to run for the U.S. Senate, leaving Republicans still searching for a candidate for the fall election.

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Dillard, 49, said Thursday that he chose not to run against Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama because it would take him away from his wife and their two daughters, ages 3 and 10 months.

“I vote to be a dad, not a U.S. senator,” Dillard said. He added that he also believes state senators have more impact on the lives of Illinois residents than U.S. senators.

The 19-member Republican State Central Committee, which Dillard serves on, is expected to choose a replacement candidate soon for primary winner Jack Ryan, a millionaire former investment banker who dropped out of the race after embarrassing allegations about his sex life became public.

A series of potential candidates have declined to run for the seat now held by retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, including former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, former State Board of Education chairman and businessman Ron Gidwitz, and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger.

Obama, meanwhile, has had strong support in statewide polls and was tapped to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention next week.

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