Note: All five candidates for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat will participate in a forum on NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago Friday. It can be watched in the video player above beginning at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on both stations on Sunday, airing on NBC 5 at 10:30 a.m. and in Spanish on Telemundo Chicago at 1:30 p.m. More information on the forum can be found here.
The only statewide race happening in Illinois this election cycle is for U.S. Senate. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, is running for reelection, seeking a fifth term in the office he first won in 1996.
Durbin, 75, is heavily favored to win, having won reelection each time by double-digit margins of victory each time he’s run – between 10 points (in 2014) and nearly 40 points (in 2008). He’s an attorney who served seven terms in the U.S. House before running for Senate.
While Illinoisans may know him as the state’s senior U.S. senator, Durbin plays a major role on the national stage as well. He serves as the Democratic Whip in the Senate, the party’s second in command in the chamber who’s tasked with rounding up votes, a role he’s held since 2005 – and could grow in prominence should Democrats take back the majority in the Senate this election.
Durbin is the fifth-most senior Democrat in the Senate and serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee, responsible for allocating federal funding, as well as on the Judiciary Committee – which has garnered national attention with hearings on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
He’s a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act, a proponent of gun control measures and has long championed the DREAM Act to grant residency to immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, among other policy positions closely aligned with the Democratic Party.
This cycle, he faces four opponents. Of those, Republican candidate Mark Curran is likely the most viable of his challengers.
Curran is an attorney who served as Lake County Sheriff from 2006 – when he was elected as a Democrat, before switching parties in 2008 – through 2018. Curran emerged from a crowded Republican primary with four other candidates, all of whom expressed varying degrees of support for President Donald Trump, looking for a boost among the GOP base in March.
In announcing his candidacy, Curran took aim at Durbin’s lengthy time in office, calling him a “career politician” and “part of the status quo.” He’s firmly anti-abortion and has leaned into his support for Trump, at times echoing the president’s message of “law and order” and backing the confirmation of his recently announced Supreme Court nominee. He also attended one of the president's rallies in Wisconsin in October and was highlighted by Trump himself in his stump speech.
As a relatively long shot candidate, Curran has received seemingly little support, monetary or otherwise, from the Republican Party – reporting roughly $150,000 in largely individual campaign contributions since 2019, compared to Durbin’s multimillion-dollar war chest, financial disclosures show.
Also running is Willie Wilson, running under the “Willie Wilson Party.” He previously ran for Chicago mayor in 2015, president in 2016 and then Chicago mayor again in 2019. Wilson is a millionaire businessman who owned several McDonald’s franchises and founded a medical supply company, in recent years using his personal wealth to fund his political campaigns.
In announcing his Senate run, Wilson said he believed Durbin “has taken the minority vote for granted” during his time in office, saying he contacted Durbin four years prior and never received a call back.
In his most recent run for mayor, Wilson came in fourth place out of 14 candidates on the ballot, earning just over 10%, nearly 60,000 votes, but failing to make the runoff election. This year, Chicago’s police union, three aldermen on the city’s Northwest Side and a group of suburban mayors have all endorsed his Senate campaign, certainly making his third-party candidacy more interesting.
Running as the Green Party candidate is David Black, a retired attorney who volunteers helping people seal or expunge their criminal records and ran for Illinois attorney general in 1996 and 2000, according to his website, which says he’s running on a platform of universal health care, clean energy and 75% cuts to military spending, among other policy positions.
Danny Malouf is the Libertarian candidate, a human resources manager and volunteer youth wrestling coach whose platform includes abolishing the Federal Reserve, isolationist foreign policy and “free market solutions” for both education and health care.
While Durbin appears likely to cruise to victory over the other four candidates, it will still be quite interesting to see how the votes shake out. Will voters in the Chicago suburbs – typically more Republican-leaning than the city but appearing poised this year to back Joe Biden – split their tickets to vote for Curran?
Might Wilson’s electoral record of garnering support in the city make him a more formidable third-party candidate? And might this be the final Senate campaign for Durbin, who early on in this cycle lightly toyed with speculation about running again, and would be 81 years old by the time he’s on another ballot? Either way, stay tuned.