There’s an old saying about drinking alcohol: “When three people at a party tell you you’re drunk, don't drive home.”
When it comes to someone’s political career, another saying might be: When you’ve lost six out of seven political campaigns in a little over 10 years, maybe you shouldn’t run for elected office anymore.
That’s the reality Republican Jim Oberweis faces in the wake of his latest electoral defeat for U.S. Senate at the hands of Democrat Dick Durbin.
Oberweis, currently an Illinois state senator, mounted a challenge for U.S. Senate to Durbin, losing in Tuesday’s election 53 percent to 43 percent. It was the seventh race for elected office for Oberweis since 2002, and his third attempt at winning a U.S. Senate seat for Illinois.
In between 2002 and 2014, Oberweis ran for and lost races for governor and 14th Illinois congressional district representative—twice—besides seeking the U.S. Senate seat. In 2012, he succeeded in winning his current office as state senator in the 25th district.
Many of those races were colorful affairs, with Oberweis making a name for himself in 2004 for a commercial in which he flew in a helicopter over Chicago's Soldier Field and claimed enough illegal immigrants came into America in a week to fill the stadium.
Many political observers believed Oberweis’ latest effort was doomed from the start, however, particularly given Durbin’s long run in Congress and ongoing popularity with Illinois voters. While Oberweis ran a professional campaign, much of the candidate’s time was spent focusing on issues voters have often ignored, such as Republican hammering of an ongoing political scandal at the IRS and Durbin’s public effort to keep retailer Walgreens from moving their headquarters outside of the country.
The campaign also struggled to move beyond questions about whether Oberweis actually lived in Illinois or Florida, where he received a tax benefit for listing a family home as a primary residence.
Outside of his political career, Oberweis is best known for the dairy farms that bear his name and his long run as an asset manager and investment advisor. Like many Republicans he has argued his business experience would translate into helping him run government more efficiently and create jobs.
Yet, in Oberweis’ case, voters have repeatedly rejected that claim, and his campaigns have struggled time and again to generate enough buzz to position himself as anything other than a perennial candidate seeking office more for personal reasons than anything else.
In this latest race, Oberweis deserves credit for breaking with tradition and mounting a credible outreach effort to Chicago’s black community, a move rare for Republicans of any stripe.
As a result, a number of African-American religious leaders, including Reverend Ira Acree and Reverend Corey Brooks, threw their support behind Oberweis. The candidate also opened a campaign office in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
But none of it was enough, for the sixth time out of seven.
When three people at a party tell you you’re drunk, hide the car keys.
When voters tell you repeatedly they don't want you in office, maybe it’s time to stop running campaigns for political offices you can't win.