He was just 35 when in 1996 he won his first bid for political office. Even
many of his staunchest supporters, such as Black, still resent the strong-arm
tactics Obama employed to win his seat in the Illinois Legislature.
Obama hired fellow Harvard Law alum and election law expert Thomas
Johnson to challenge the nominating petitions of four other candidates,
including the popular incumbent, Alice Palmer, a liberal activist who had held
the seat for several years, according to an April 2007 Chicago Tribune report.
Obama found enough flaws in the petition sheets—to appear on the
ballot, candidates needed 757 signatures from registered voters living within
the district—to knock off all the other Democratic contenders. He won the seat
"A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has
cultivated throughout his political career," wrote Tribune political reporters
David Jackson and Ray Long. "The man now running for president on a message of
giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the
playing field, but by clearing it."