The 1998 United States Senate election in Illinois was held on November 3, 1998. Incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun decided to run for re-election, despite the number of controversies she was in during her first term. Republican State Senator Peter Fitzgerald won his party's primary with a slim margin of victory. He ended up defeating the incumbent with a margin of victory of approximately 3%.
During Moseley Braun's first term as U.S. Senator, she was plagued by several major controversies. Moseley Braun was the subject of a 1993 Federal Elections Commission investigation over $249,000 in unaccounted-for campaign funds. The agency found some small violations, but took no action against Moseley Braun, citing a lack of resources. Moseley Braun only admitted to bookkeeping errors. The Justice Department turned down two requests for investigations from the IRS. In 1996, Moseley Braun made a private trip to Nigeria, where she met with dictator Sani Abacha. Despite U.S. sanctions against that country, due to Abacha's actions, the Senator did not notify, nor register her trip with, the State Department. She subsequently defended Abacha's human rights records in Congress.
Peter Fitzgerald, a State Senator, barely won the Republican primary, spending over $7 million. He had a major finances advantage, as he was a multimillionaire. He ended up spending $12 million in his election victory.
In September, she created controversy again by using the word Nigger to describe how she claims to be a victim of racism.
Most polls over the first few months showed Moseley-Braun trailing badly. However, after she was helped in the final month by notable Democrats such as First LadyHillary Clinton and U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, three polls published in the last week showed her within the margin of error, and, in one poll, running even with Fitzgerald.