Sen. Dick Durbin faces long-shot bid from ‘truly independent’ challenger Mark Curran, Willie Wilson, two othe… – Chicago Sun-Times

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National pundits trying to predict the partisan breakdown of the Senate after next week’s election rarely consider the possibility that Illinois will send anyone other than its Democratic senior senator back to Washington.

And why should they? After almost four decades in the Capitol for Sen. Dick Durbin, including 23 years in his current seat, all that stands between the state’s most nationally recognizable active politician and a fifth consecutive term are four much lesser known faces.

Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democratic leader, entered the home stretch of a mostly virtual campaign season with weeks of national exposure as one of the loudest voices against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, further burnishing his partisan credentials.

That’s just the problem, according to Durbin’s main challenger, Mark Curran, the former Democratic Lake County sheriff who’s running as a Republican.

“People want change. What they like about me is I’m not a partisan. I’m totally an independent,” Curran said. “The country is $27 trillion in debt, Illinois is getting killed by this exodus of residents, and Dick Durbin has been at the wheel for years. Who do you blame if you can’t blame Dick Durbin?”

Curran, who switched parties in 2008, said “people know I’m not going to be a clone for the party or Donald Trump. I’m truly an independent.”

While Curran might not be a Trump clone — he diverges from the president on immigration issues, particularly in his support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) — he’s certainly a fan. Curran attended a packed Trump campaign rally in Wisconsin earlier this month, waving a red hat as the president gave him a brief shoutout.

Curran has argued for term limits, even saying GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “should have retired 10 years ago, 12 years ago.”

“I was a longtime Democrat. I am not their enemy. I’m part of the new Republican party that’s not the Rockefellers,” Curran said.

His campaign finance account reflects that. With limited support from the national party, Curran had about $12,800 on hand three weeks out from the election, dwarfed by Durbin’s $2.1 million war chest.

But Durbin says a better indicator of the priorities held by Curran and his other top challenger, Chicago millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, is that they both voted for Trump. And Durbin stands by his lengthy tenure in Washington.

“For some people, that’s a plus. For others, it’s a minus. A lot of people agree it proves I’ve got experience and can help the state more than most,” Durbin said.

Chicago businessman Willie Wilson, left, walks with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich earlier this month.

Chicago businessman Willie Wilson, left, walks with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich earlier this month.
AP Photos

For the namesake candidate of the Willie Wilson Party, it’s definitely a minus.

Wilson, a businessman best known for handing out wads of cash to residents in low-income city neighborhoods, says Durbin is “running from his own record.”

“He doesn’t make a decision unless it’s with the party. Politics should be about the people. He’s lost touch,” said Wilson, who is endorsed by Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police. Wilson donated millions of masks to first responders early in the COVID-19 pandemic and recovered from his own case of the disease just weeks before the election.

“All Durbin can do is talk about Trump. There’s nothing else he did,” Wilson said. Wilson is also backed by disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who owes his freedom to a commutation from Trump.

Libertarian Senate candidate Danny Malouf (left) and Green Party candidate David Black.

Libertarian Senate candidate Danny Malouf (left) and Green Party candidate David Black.
Provided photos

Also on the Nov. 3 ballot are Libertarian candidate Danny Malouf and Green Party nominee David Black.

Malouf, a northwest suburban human resources manager who has set a goal to win 5% of the statewide vote, calls himself “more of a fiscal conservative than Mark Curran, and more in tune with criminal justice reform, bringing the troops home and civil rights than Dick Durbin.”

Black is a retired attorney from Rockford who volunteers to help asylum seekers and people who need record expungements to find employment.

“Not only do I stand for progressive ideas, but I’m actually on a daily basis fighting for those ideas,” he said.

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October 31, 2020 at 09:12AM

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