It may not be getting much media attention, but there’s a spirited race in Republican circles to replace longtime Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who’s up for reelection in 2014.
And, in many ways, the two GOP candidates vying for the job—Jim Oberweis and Doug Truax—couldn't be less alike.
On the one hand, there’s dairy magnate, investment manager and seemingly perennial GOP candidate Oberweis. Currently running in his seventh race in the past 12 years, Oberweis has lost five of them before winning the State Senate seat in the 25th district of Illinois.
He previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004, and made a name for himself in part due to a TV ad claiming enough illegal immigrants enter America in a week to fill Chicago's Soldier Field.
By contrast, Truax is political newcomer running his first campaign. His biography is impressive: West Point graduate, Army veteran, business owner, solid family man. He says he’s running because Illinois needs a new generation of leadership, and expects to attract younger and less traditonal Republican voters.
There’s one other key difference as well: money. At the moment, Oberweis has lots of it, and Truax doesn't. In fact, Oberweis recently loaned his campaign over half a million dollars of his own money, while Truax has said he has about $60,000 on hand.
That’s why the battle for endorsements has taken on such a key role in the campaign.
Truax, a Downers Grove Republican and businessman, has started to tout the backing of a handful of suburban Republican organizations, from Cuba Township in Lake County to New Trier, Palatine, Niles and Northfield townships in Cook County.
Oberweis, of Sugar Grove, has picked up some major suburban backing, too, winning the endorsements of GOP organizations in Wheeling and Schaumburg townships.
For his part, Truax points to what he says is a 10-to-1 lead in endorsements over Oberweis in a January press release, saying it proves he has what it takes to “build a wide coalition needed to defeat Dick Durbin.”
The only problem is, both candidates are facing an uphill fight against Durbin, regardless of money, endorsements or confidence. Illinois' senior Senator has been in office since 1996, holds the second highest position in Democratic party leadership in the Senate, won his last race by almost 40 points and boasts fundraising help from the likes of Vice President Joe Biden.
Surprisingly, neither Oberweis nor Truax are spending very much time on each other in the Republican primary, opting instead to focus their attention on Durbin.
In December, however, Truax did attack Oberweis on the Illinois pension reform vote, saying his opponent needed to explain why he voted with “the status quo that never solves problems but rather transfers them to the next generation.”