When Illinois picks a new senator next year, voters will decide not only who wins an election but whether history repeats itself.
The seat up for grabs has produced three of the nation's four black senators in modern history. It paved the way for Barack Obama to be America's first black president. The Senate's only African-American member, Roland Burris, currently holds it.
That legacy could create political complications in the 2010 election.
A black candidate could unite black voters behind the idea of holding onto the seat, but other voters might see that as exploiting race. At the same time, white candidates could be asking voters to accept the idea of a Senate without any black members.
With no incumbent and no big-name Democratic heir apparent, the race is wide open.