U.S. Senate-Illinois: Durbin wins third term

Western suburbs

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., won a third term in the Senate on Tuesday.

The outcome was never in doubt. Just six minutes after polls closed, The Associated Press declared the Springfield resident the winner based on exit polls. By 8:30 p.m., Durbin was piling up nearly 70 percent over his Republican opponent, Dr. Steve Sauerberg of Willowbrook.

“Thank you to the people of Illinois for this vote of confidence,” Durbin said in a written statement issued at 8:20 p.m. “I look forward to representing our great state in the Senate and working with our new President to face our historic challenges.”

Sauerberg conceded in a call to Durbin.

“He talked to Sen. Durbin and said, ‘Congratulations on the win,’” said Lynne Senn, Sauerberg’s deputy press secretary.

While Sauerberg and his supporters watched returns at Harry Caray’s restaurant in Lombard, Durbin canceled his election party because of the death of his daughter, Christine Durbin. She died Saturday of a congenital heart defect. She was 40.

“On a personal note, my family and I greatly appreciate the recent outpouring of kindness and support from every corner of our state,” Durbin said in his prepared statement.

Durbin is the second-most-powerful member of the Senate. After 16 years in the U.S. House, Durbin moved to the Senate in 1996, and his seat is considered so safe that a big-name Republican never has challenged him.

Sauerberg, 55, a physician, raised nearly $2 million, with more than $1.3 million coming from his own pocketbook. Durbin, 63, raised nearly $11 million since his 2002 re-election and still had $6.5 million in the bank as of Sept. 30, according to federal election records.

During the campaign, Sauerberg billed himself as a change candidate and attacked Durbin for supporting a $700 billion federal bailout for banks. Sauerberg also criticized the incumbent for comparing American guards at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, a remark made on the Senate floor in 2005 for which Durbin ultimately apologized.

In his campaign, Durbin said that if he was re-elected and Barack Obama became president, Illinois would have plenty of political clout. While Sauerberg criticized Durbin for earmark spending, the senator remained unapologetic about using earmarks to help Illinois.

The two also differed on Iraq, with Sauerberg arguing that troops should remain until the war is won, and Durbin, who voted against the war in 2002, saying it is time for troops to come home.

Other candidates in the race included Kathy Cummings of the Green Party, Larry Stafford of the Libertarian Party and Chad Koppie of the Constitution Party.