A controversial, late-election season trip to Florida didn’t completely melt the political aspirations of dairy-ice cream store owner and state Sen. Jim Oberweis, who now will attempt to defeat veteran Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in the November general election.
The Associated Press projected Oberweis the GOP nominee as returns rolled in Tuesday.
A failed candidate for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and a GOP party office five times, and a successful candidate for state senate in 2012, Oberweis defeated his opponent, first-time candidate Doug Truax, in the Tuesday Republican primary for a six-year U.S. Senate term.
“I believe the people of Illinois support my candidacy because they’re tired of what Dick Durbin has done,” Oberweis said in an interview.
Interviewed on WBBM Newsradio, Democrat Durbin countered that voters would not be ready for Oberweis’ vision for change that, he suggested, would including privatizing Social Security.
Sugar Grove resident Oberweis was the projected winner, despite coming under fire just days before the primary election for leaving frigid Illinois for Florida, where he said he celebrated his wife’s birthday and held fundraising events.
Truax’s campaign said that Oberweis, by taking the trip and refusing to answer questions about it, was “disrespecting Illinois voters.” Oberweis also avoided several joint appearances with Truax, debating him only once. But Downers Grove resident Truax’s his attempts to capitalize on Oberweis’ sojourn to Florida didn’t earn him the Republican nomination.
Oberweis said his campaign has been focused on defeating Durbin from the beginning. Despite a long record of repeated strong Illinois general election victories, including three Senate runs, Oberweis said, he no longer views Durbin as an extremely formidable opponent after looking at recent poll numbers.
“He has just become a liberal mouthpiece for the administration,” Oberweis said. “He no longer represents the views of the people of Illinois.”
Durbin is the assistant majority leader of the U.S. Senate, the majority party’s second-ranking leadership slot and he has been close to President Obama.
In an email sent out Tuesday night, Durbin thanked his supporters and asked for their continued help.
“Now that self-funding, ultra-conservative Jim Oberweis has been nominated, I’m going to need you even more,” Durbin said.
In the Republican primary campaign, Truax had a financial disadvantage against Oberweis and the race was overshadowed by the hot GOP governor’s contest. Truax had never run for office before, while Oberweis has attempted to gain political office multiple times. Oberweis tried to get the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in 2002 and 2004; attempted to get on the gubernatorial ballot in 2006; and lost to U.S. Rep. Bill Foster in a 2007 special election. Oberweis won his state senate seat in November 2012.
Despite his political inexperience, West Point graduate Truax won the endorsement of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and of the Chicago Tribune, which called him “promising” and praised his knowledge of foreign affairs. Truax also knows the nuances of health care coverage, the Tribune said, because of his current job as a suburban health insurance consultant.
Oberweis, who recently saw his bill to raise the speed limit on many Illinois highways enacted, was endorsed by the Springfield State-Journal Register, the suburban Daily Herald, and other media outlets and politicians.
Oberweis wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and supports adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Despite his own long record of office-seeking, Oberweis said he supports the idea of term limits, calling Durbin a “true career politician.”
“I think that many voters in Illinois are truly tired of what has been going on in Washington,” Oberweis said. “We live in a great country, we have to be sure that we don’t screw it up.”
Asked what slogan he might use for the formidable campaign against Durbin, Oberweis offered up a phrase on a tie his children gave him, “Liberty and ice cream for all.”
Oberweis’ money didn’t help him win many previous elections. He’s not the only person whose money didn’t guarantee him political success — he’s got plenty of company.
To read up on the primary candidates’ views in all of Illinois’ major races, check out our election scorecards.
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