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Illinois Races

Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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Outlook: Solid Democratic

May 28, 2008 Update:

When running a campaign in a media market the size of Chicago, money becomes one of the better indicators of electoral success. On top of his incumbency and party advantages, Democrat Dick Durbin is winning the money war, and winning it handily. Durbin has wrangled up more than $9 million in the 2008 election cycle, compared to only $1.5 million for physician Steve Sauerberg, his Republican challenger. Illinois is a very Blue state, Durbin is one of the nation’s more liberal Senators, and all evidence points to him holding onto his seat for another term.

March 5, 2008 Update:

At least one Illinois Senator shouldn’t have electoral problems to worry about in the next few months. Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin should coast through the next eight months on the strength of his incumbency, and the fact that, thanks to Chicago, Illinois is very much a Blue State. Physician Steve Sauerberg won the Republican primary, and will rely on his personal wealth to mount a challenge to Durbin, which could be aided by the fact that Durbin has consistently been rated one of the Senate’s most liberal members. Even with that, Sauerberg is fighting from way behind in this race, and it certainly doesn’t appear that he’ll get close enough to make Durbin sweat.


Though Illinois’ favorite son, Barack Obama, is receiving a lot of attention during his very high profile bid for the presidency, it seem Illinois’ other Democratic Senator will face a rather boring senatorial race next November.

As the current majority whip, Dick Durbin has received some heat for his ranking as the Senate’s most liberal member. Most notably, Durbin received criticism in 2005 due to his scathing remarks about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin compared American torture tactics to those of Nazis and other genocidal regimes, causing many to accuse him of disrespecting US troops. Though Durbin immediately apologized for these remarks, the title of extremist lingers with him still. Despite this, Durbin still holds what many term to be a very safe seat. With estimates of an Illinois senate campaign costing being between $15 million and $20 million, Durbin’s current balance of $6 million certainly gives him a leg up. Moreover, Illinois’ decision to hold the Senate primaries six weeks earlier than normal, decreasing the time any challengers will have to raise funds and campaign, will also help the incumbent Durbin. Perhaps most importantly, Illinois’ position as a solid blue state will likely help this ranking Democrat.

With the high cost of campaigning in Illinois being what it is and with their focus shifted to more competitive races, Republicans are hopeful that one of the many wealthy Chicagoans will take on Durbin in 2008. However, so far no such candidate has officially stepped to the plate. Yet, a draft movement to push Katy Salvi, the wife of Durbin’s 1996 opponent, into the race has some Republicans excited; however, this still appears only to be buzz. Mrs. Salvi is a former candidate for the House, herself, and might be considering another run for that chamber instead.

As for the official challengers, the pickings look slim for Republicans. Middle East expert and self-titled Illinois corruption fighter Andy Martin seems a long shot at best, as his own party has chosen not to back him. Though Martin may have gained fame as a very opinionated radio talk show host, it likely will not be enough to get him to Washington. With a story resembling an inspirational Lifetime movie, Mike Psak takes the cake for least likely to win. The white color professional-turned truck driver has taken on the cause of the little man, and hopes to ride this blue color wave to DC. Psak’s biggest weakness is due to one of the very issues he stumps against, the high cost of political campaigns. Finally, of the official challengers, it seems it is Physician Steve Sauerberg who presents the biggest threat to Durbin. Sauerberg has the endorsement of his party and has pledged to contribute $1 million of his money to his campaign. However, Sauerberg has a long way to go if he wants to seriously compete in this very expensive race.


Steve Sauerberg – Republican – physician

Richard Durbin (I) – Democrat – current U.S. Senator