GOP Senate hopefuls spar at last-minute forum
BLOOMINGTON — The two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, in virtually a last-minute forum, said Monday that they thought their opponent was unelectable.
It was only the second candidate forum between dairy magnate and state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Aurora and Chicago businessman Doug Truax. And it came after a week when Oberweis was criticized for spending the closing days of the campaign in Florida, where he celebrated his wife's birthday.
"Oh, I think he's worried," said Truax. "The thing I hear over and over from people is, 'I can't believe he went to Florida. How arrogant is that?'"
But when asked if he was "panicking" because of the controversy over the Florida trip, Oberweis said, "Are you kidding?"
Oberweis said at a luncheon meeting of McLean County Republicans that only he can beat incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
"To defeat Dick Durbin it's going to take a candidate with experience. It's going to take a candidate with the credibility, capability and the financial ability to run a serious race," said Oberweis. "Mr. Durbin has $5 million already in his bank account."
Oberweis said he had more than $500,000 already but that Truax couldn't raise the money for a statewide race.
"My opponent I think is a good Republican and I think he'd be a great candidate for the state House or the state Senate, but in this particular race, I don't think he has the necessary experience, and has kind of shown that."
He said Truax hasn't been able to live within his campiagn budget.
"According to a recent campaign filing he's overspent his budget and is now in debt," Oberweis said. "I think we're better off to start with a half a million in the bank account for this race rather than already in debt."
But Truax, a 43-year-old former Army Ranger who now runs his own business, called his campaign indebtedness "a filing nuace," and said that his campaign is "now all good and we'll finish in the black."
He countered that he is the best candidate to defeat Durbin.
"Jim said that I'm a good conservative and that I should run for some smaller office," Truax said. "I think he's a good conservative too, but you lose five races in 11 years, you naturally narrow down the number of people who are going to vote for you in a general election. That's just the way it is."
He said his business background makes him a superior candidate.
"This not so much about me and Jim," Truax said. "It's about who's going to take on Durbin. Durbin's hard re-elect (support) is 32 percent. That is the question no matter who the Republican is. So when a guy like him drops below 40 percent it's a really big deal. He's going to be vulnerable and he's going to be most vulnerable on the employer side of Obamacare, which is something I specialize in.
"This is the time to hold him accountable. We need a candidate who understands all of this. I can go deep, deep, deep on medical insurance."
But Oberweis, citing his work to pass legislation allowing a 70 mph speed limit on some interstate highways in Illinois, said he had shown an ability to work with Democrats, "much like Ronald Reagan did with Tip O'Neill to solve legislative problems without compromising conservative principles."
He also said that Democratic support for the Affordable Care Act "is going to help Republicans across this country.
"We have a YouTube of Dick Durbin on the floor of the U.S. Senate saying that if you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan, I guarantee it. Well, the one thing I guarantee is that if you don't like your U.S. senator you don't have to keep him, you can get a new one come November," Oberweis said.