Durbin Retirement Could Leave Downstate Without A Senator

In the Washington Post column The Fix, Sen. Dick Durbin is at the top of the list of Democrats likely to retire in 2014. Here’s what the Post says about the 68-year-old senator from Springfield, who was first elected in 1996:

Dick Durbin (Ill.): Opinion is deeply divided on what the Illinois senator does next. There are those who argue he will run again in order to serve all the way through President Obama’s second term since he and his former junior colleague have a close relationship. There are others who note that Durbin’s hopes of beating out Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) as the next Senate Democratic leader are dwindling, and that could hasten his exit. Durbin has said he hasn’t made up his mind on running again, but if he does, his $2 million-plus in the bank and the state’s Democratic lean make him a clear favorite.
Earlier this year, Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported, “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin telling pals he might retire in two years.”
If Durbin does retire, his replacement could be determined by a quaint Illinois tradition that there should always be one senator representing Downstate. Durbin succeeded Paul Simon, who lived in Makanda. Simon served alongside Alan Dixon, from Belleville. Dixon succeeded Adlai Stevenson III, who lived in Chicago but whose famous family’s roots are in Bloomington. Stevenson held the seat of Peoria’s Everett Dirksen, who succeeded Scott Lucas of Havana. And so it’s gone.
However, the Chicago area now dominates Illinois politics as never before in the state’s history. The current Chicagoland senator, Mark Kirk, is a Republican. So are all the likely Downstate candidates for Senate. The last time Illinois elected two Republicans to the Senate was in the 1920s, and the state is more Democratic than it’s ever been. So if Durbin retires, Downstate may be without a voice in the Senate.
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