- Associated Press - Sunday, October 5, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s more than three decades in Washington have helped him become one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill - a position he says has helped him reap billions of dollars of federal funds and other valuable benefits for Illinois.

His Republican challenger, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a dairy owner and investment manager, says Durbin’s lengthy tenure also makes him a “career politician” who’s out-of-touch with voters and clueless about how to create jobs in the private sector.

As the two face off in the Nov. 4 midterm election, Oberweis acknowledges it will take a significant Republican tide for him to unseat the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat. But he says he has the background to help create much-needed jobs in Illinois.

“We need to move in a different direction,” Oberweis told The Associated Press.

Durbin, who’s seeking his fourth U.S. Senate term, said he wants to continue working to “lift up” the middle class. “There is more to be done,” he said.

Here’s a look at the two candidates, based on recent interviews with the AP, a candidate questionnaire and statements on the campaign trail:


Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, 69, of Springfield

Background: Served in U.S. House 1983 to 1997, when he started his first U.S. Senate term.

Favorite book: “The Last Lion” by William Manchester and “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.

Favorite dessert: A tie between apple pie and hot fudge sundae with pecans.

Most admired Illinois governor: “In history, John Peter Altgeld and Henry Horner. In my lifetime, Richard Ogilvie.”


Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis, 68, of Sugar Grove

Background: Chairman of Oberweis Dairy, founder of Oberweis Asset Management. Elected to the Illinois Senate in 2012.

Favorite book: “Illinois Pension Scam.”

Favorite dessert: “Oberweis ice cream, of course.”

Most admired Illinois governor: Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.



Durbin points to a digital manufacturing hub in Chicago, funded in part by a $75 million federal grant he helped secure, as an example of how federal grants can help spur new industry and create good jobs. He also says Illinois should build workforce training partnerships, focused on community colleges and supported by federal funds, to align the needs of businesses with workers who want to be trained for new careers.

Oberweis says more jobs will be created if the federal government stops “over spending, over taxing, over regulating and demonizing job creators.”


Durbin agrees with President Barack Obama’s decision to pull ground troops out of Iraq and not send them back to combat the Islamic State group. He told the Chicago Tribune editorial board during a televised debate that the U.S. learned from the war in Afghanistan that ground troops are “easily bogged down.” He believes the Iraqis must be willing to fight for themselves.

Oberweis said it was a bad idea to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, and that leaving 5,000 to 10,000 troops there would have been reasonable. Oberweis also said Obama shouldn’t have told the U.S.’s enemies he didn’t plan to send new combat troops to Iraq. He said U.S. leaders should pay attention to what the military generals want, and some have said ground troops may be needed.


Durbin supports Obama’s health care overhaul, though he believes it’s imperfect and Congress should make changes as needed over time.

Oberweis called it a “partisan train wreck” and said he would push to repeal the law in his first 100 days in office. He says he would replace it with health care reform that’s less intrusive and bureaucratic.


Durbin helped draft an immigration overhaul that, among other things, would give some 11 million people who entered the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship. He has misgivings about provisions to put more guards and other security on the border, which he says goes “beyond what I would consider reasonable.”

Oberweis has softened his stance on immigrants who entered the country illegally as young children, now saying they should be allowed to stay in the U.S. He doesn’t support all parts of the federal immigration bill approved by the Senate because it sends a message that breaking the law is OK. He’d first like to see more border security.


Durbin supports expanded background checks for gun purchases, which he says will help keep weapons out of the hands of felons and people with mental health issues.

Oberweis says he’s not convinced background checks would be effective, and he has concerns about the government maintaining a database of gun owners.


Durbin wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25 per hour.

Oberweis says he supports raising the wage to an as-yet-undetermined amount, but only for workers age 26 and older.

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