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Durbin’s fourth term would put him at elite level

If U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, wins a fourth term in November, he would become one of only three Illinoisans ever to do so. Durbin has said he won’t take his GOP rival for granted. He’d be wise not to.

Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Sen. Dick Durbin

Of the 49 men and one woman who have served Illinois in the U.S. Senate since 1818, only two have been elected to a fourth term.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants to join that select group.

Durbin, 69, is a Springfield Democrat who served 14 years as a congressman before he won a U.S. Senate seat in 1996.

Durbin captured a 15-percentage-point win over Republican Al Salvi in the election that saw Bill Clinton win a second term in the White House.

In 2002, Durbin beat Republican Jim Durkin (now the Illinois House minority leader) by 22 points.

And in 2008, as fellow U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois won the White House, Durbin racked up a landslide 39-point win over little-known Republican Steve Sauerberg.

Here it is 2014, and Durbin is again considered a favorite, this time over his Republican challenger, state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove.

Yet Durbin, in an Associated Press story from Monday, said he is taking Oberweis’ challenge seriously. He’s opening campaign offices, bringing campaign veterans on board, and raising a campaign fund that has reached $6 million.

Durbin is wise to do so, because he is in rarely charted territory for an Illinois senator.

U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, a Pekin Republican, won a fourth term to the Senate in 1968. Unfortunately, he died in September 1969, only 8 months into that term.

And U.S. Sen. Shelby Cullom, a Springfield Republican, won fourth and fifth terms more than a century ago. He served from 1883 until 1913.

They are the only ones to capture fourth terms.

Oberweis is a different candidate than Durbin’s three previous opponents. He has personal wealth and statewide name recognition.

And Durbin, for the first time, will be running in a midterm election where his party has the White House – traditionally a down year for the party in power.

Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, has racked up some accomplishments, including getting the federal Bureau of Prisons to allocate money to reopen the shuttered Thomson Correctional Center in Carroll County.

Other Illinois senators of distinction – Stephen A. Douglas, John A. Logan, Adlai Stevenson III, Paul Simon and Barack Obama – did not serve as long as Durbin has.

Will Durbin’s dream of a fourth term become reality? On Nov. 4, it’ll be up to voters to decide whether he is granted that elite honor.

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