Alice Palmer (politician)
|Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 13th district
June 6, 1991 – January 8, 1997
|Preceded by||Richard Newhouse|
|Succeeded by||Barack Obama|
June 20, 1939
|Alma mater||Indiana University
|Education||English, sociology B.S.,
M.A. urban studies,
educational administration, Ph.D.
Alice J. Palmer (born June 20, 1939) is an American educator and former Democratic member of the Illinois Senate. Known as a longtime progressive activist, Palmer represented the state's 13th Senate district from June 6, 1991, until January 8, 1997. At the time, the district spanned an economically diverse area and included the Chicago communities of Hyde Park, South Shore and Englewood.
First appointed to fill the vacant seat of retired state senator Richard J. Newhouse, Jr., Palmer successfully ran for election in 1992 and served a four-year term that ended on January 8, 1997. She ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995, and was succeeded in office by Barack Obama.
Early life and education 
Palmer was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Erskine and Mary Ward Roberts. She graduated from high school at age 16, enrolled at Indiana University, but dropped out for an extended period. She returned to college and received her B.S. in English and sociology from Indiana University in 1965.
Palmer began her teaching career in Indianapolis then moved to Chicago to teach at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. She earned an M.A. in urban studies from Roosevelt University, and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Northwestern University. While working on her degree at Northwestern, Palmer co-authored two books and tutored. She then took a position at Northwestern as Associate Dean and Director of African American Student Affairs for five years.
She became involved in a national voter education movement then founded the Chicago YMCA Youth and Government Program in 1986. In addition, she was executive director of Chicago Cities in Schools. In the late 1980s she was on the board of the Chicago Committee in Solidarity with Southern Africa, an anti-apartheid group.
Palmer was appointed to the Illinois state Senate in June 1991 to fill the remainder of the term of longtime state senator, Richard J. Newhouse, Jr., who had retired. She successfully ran for election in 1992 and served a four-year term that ended on January 8, 1997.
While in the state Senate, Palmer initially served on the committees for Appropriations, Commerce and Economic Development, Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education, rising to vice chairperson of Commerce and Economic Development. Later in her tenure, she served on the State Government Operations and the Economic and Fiscal commissions, and was a member of the Legislative Bureau and the Legislative Information Systems committee.
In July 1995, seven months after launching an exploratory fundraising committee for a U.S. congressional run, Palmer announced she would run to replace U.S. Representative Mel Reynolds who was then under indictment for sex crimes. She also said that she would not seek reelection to the Illinois state Senate in 1996. Shortly afterward, Barack Obama, who had never held political office to-date, launched his campaign committee for Palmer's Illinois state Senate seat.
Following Reynolds' conviction and resignation from the U.S. House in August 1995, a special election primary was set for November 1995 to replace Reynolds. In September 1995, Palmer supporters held a press conference asking other announced and rumored candidates to drop out to allow Palmer to run in the special primary without opposition.
On September 19, 1995, Barack Obama formally announced his candidacy for the state Senate, with Palmer introducing and endorsing Obama as her successor, according to multiple accounts. According to The New Yorker, Palmer's endorsement "brought with it two organizational assets: local operators and local activists".
On November 28, 1995, after finishing a distant third behind Jesse Jackson, Jr. in the primary to replace Reynolds, a disappointed Palmer remarked that she still would not seek re-election to the state Senate. However, Palmer changed her mind and filed nominating petitions with 1,580 signatures on December 18, 1995—the last day for filing. That day Obama told the Chicago Tribune, "I am disappointed that she's decided to go back on her word to me".
In early January 1996, Obama challenged Palmer's hastily gathered petitions and those of the three other prospective Democratic candidates. Nearly two-thirds of the signatures on Palmer's petitions were found to be invalid, leaving her almost 200 signatures short of the required 757 signatures of registered voters residing in the Illinois Senate district.
None of the other three prospective candidates had the required number of valid signatures. As a result Obama, who had filed nominating petitions with over 3,000 signatures on the first filing day, appeared alone on the ballot for the March 16 Democratic primary. For all intents and purposes, this assured him of election in this heavily Democratic district. He easily defeated the Republican and Harold Washington Party candidates in the November general election. In a 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Obama said that the challenges were justified by obvious flaws in the signature sheets.
After leaving public office, Palmer became an Associate Professor in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and she was a special assistant to the president of the university before retiring.
Palmer endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. She was reportedly a key supporter of Danny Davis in his 2011 run for mayor of Chicago against Rahm Emanuel.
- Illinois Blue Book, 1991-1992, page 80.
- "Alice Palmer biography". The HistoryMakers. August 9, 2000. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Jackson, David; Long, Ray (April 3, 2007). "Obama knows his way around a ballot". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Madhani, Aamer (May 2, 2002). "Richard Newhouse Jr., 78". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Illinois Blue Book, 1993-1994, pages 55, 78.
- Rubin, Rachel (Fall 1989). "Defiance campaign takes anti-apartheid action to a new level". Chicago Committee in Solidarity with Southern Africa (CCISSA) Briefing. East Lansing, Mich.: Historical Voices, Matrix, Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online, Michigan State University. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
- Illinois Blue Book, 1995-1996, page 78.
- Kuczka, Susan (November 22, 1994). "State Sen. Palmer ponders a bid for Reynolds' 2nd district post". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
Neal, Steve (November 25, 1994). "Palmer beats Jackson Jr. to punch". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 49. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
- Hardy, Thomas (June 28, 1995). "Palmer seeks to replace Reynolds; 'Pray for him, vote for me,' legislator says". Chicago Tribune. p. 3. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
- Knapp, Kevin (July 5, 1995). "Alice Palmer to run for Reynolds' seat". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
Hevrdejs, Judy; Conklin, Mike (July 7, 1995). "Something different, Democrats don't add a Senate candidate". Chicago Tribune. p. 20. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
- Fornek, Scott (September 15, 1995). "Sen. Jones is joining the pack; Will bid for Reynolds’ House seat". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 6. Retrieved November 4, 2004.
- Strausberg, Chinta (September 19, 1995). "Harvard lawyer eyes Palmer seat". Chicago Defender. p. 3.
Mitchell, Monica (October 4, 1995). "Hyde Parker announces run for state senate seat". Hyde Park Herald. p. 3. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
Fornek, Scott (October 29, 1995). "Foot soldiers for the '96 elections". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 14. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
- Lizza, Ryan (July 21, 2008). "Making it; how Chicago shaped Obama". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Hardy, Thomas; Rubin, Bonnie Miller (November 29, 1995). "Jesse Jackson Jr. rolls over veteran opponents; Somer wins GOP primary". Chicago Tribune. p. 1 (Metro). Retrieved November 4, 2008.
- Strausberg, Chinta (December 5, 1995). "Draft Palmer campaign launched". Chicago Defender. p. 4. "Obama, who was born in Hawaii and who has lived in Hyde Park for a decade, said he's meeting with Palmer today over the issue and is planning on filing more than 3,000 petitions Monday in Springfield."
De Zutter, Hank (December 8, 1995). "What makes Obama run?". Chicago Reader. pp. 1, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
Knapp, Kevin (December 13, 1995). "Palmer may re-enter state Senate race". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
Hardy, Thomas (December 19, 1995). "Jackson foe now wants old job back; Palmer must now battle own endorsee". Chicago Tribune. p. 3 (Metro). Retrieved January 21, 2009.
Strausberg, Chinta (December 19, 1995). "Palmer OKs draft to run for re-election". Chicago Defender. p. 3.
. (December 19, 1995). "State Senator Alice J. Palmer announces run for re-election". South Street Journal. p. 9. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
Knapp, Kevin (December 20, 1995). "Palmer caught in campaign draft". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
Knapp, Kevin (December 20, 1995). "Candidates file petitions for local political offices". Hyde Park Herald. p. 2. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
Strausberg, Chinta (December 21, 1995). "Palmer challenger says he won't step aside in race". Chicago Defender. p. 3.
Hevrdejs, Judy; Conklin, Mike (December 25, 1995). "Hevrdejs & Conklin INC.". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
Walls, Sunya (December 25, 1995). "Alice Palmer decides to run for re-election". Chicago Weekend. p. 2.
Knapp, Kevin (December 13, 1995). "List of next year's candidates is sparse". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
Knapp, Kevin (January 24, 1996). "Final primary ballot takes shape". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- . (September 25, 1996). "Two candidates to challenge Obama for state senate seat". Hyde Park Herald. p. 2. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
Knapp, Kevin (November 13, 1996). "Election holds no surprises for local candidates". Hyde Park Herald. p. 2. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
Chicago Democracy Project (2005). "Election results for 1996 general election, Illinois Senate, District 13". Chicago Democracy Project. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Felsenthal, Carol (July 1, 2008). "Barack Obambi? Not quite; just ask Alice Palmer". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Parsons, Christi (April 26, 2008). "Once Obama's mentor, Alice Palmer now campaigns for Clinton". Top of the Ticket blog. latimes.com. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2008.
- Shiner, Meredith (December 31, 2010). "Obama unlikely to campaign for Rahm". Politico. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
|Illinois State Senator from 13th district
June 6, 1991 - January 8, 1997