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It’s five months out from the filing period for next year’s primary election, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin still doesn’t have a top-name Republican Party opponent.

The Federal Elections Commission lists three possible Republican opponents, each one less politically fearsome than the next: Peggy Hubbard of Belleville, Thomas Tarter of Springfield and Dean Seppelfrick of Aurora.

Hubbard, a former St. Louis County Police Department court officer, had raised the most money as of March 31: just over $50,000.

Durbin, meanwhile, had more than $2.4 million on hand.

Another Republican recently announced that he hopes to challenge Durbin, although the familiar name Robert Marshall may be even less frightful to the four-term senator from Springfield. Marshall ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, for Congress in 2016 and for governor last year, each time as a Democrat.

Now, Marshall’s website says that he is proud to be a “true Republican.”

“The first Republican Bob Marshall ever voted for was Reagan, and he became part of the Reagan Democrat coalition that gave President Reagan the back-to-back historic landslides that the country had never experienced before. Now, the Democratic Party is not welcoming of moderates/Blue Dog Democrats. The few remaining are always under attack rather than being praised for their bipartisanship,” he said. “With the proper messaging, we can win these voters to the Republican Party.”

Durbin’s closest Senate race came in 2014, when he defeated Republican Jim Oberweis, now a state senator from Sugar Grove, by about 11 percentage points. Although Oberweis hopes to run for Congress next year, he couldn’t help but comment — embarrassingly — in a fundraising email about Durbin and his 2020 campaign.

“I need your help,” he wrote. “I beat Durban [sic] in every county in the 14th district in 2014. If I can beat Durban, I will beat Underwood. I have raised over $200,000 already and I have personally matched that.

“It looks like we may have an African American female (Peggy Hubbard) against white male Durban. Dems May have an older white male (Biden) at the top of their ticket. We may have an Hispanic female in the 6th. I expect to have a female candidate replacing me. So, Can I be your token white male candidate?”

How does Durbin continue to be so lucky with electoral opposition like this?

A little Champaign-Urbana history

A book I recently read recounted some of the adventures of Nelson Algren, a great author of the 1940s and ’50s, who was a student at the University of Illinois during Champaign’s vice era.

The book “Never A Lovely So Real” by Colin Asher tells of Algren’s exploits as a student and as a young journalist at the University of Illinois.

Early in his college career, Asher writes, Algren was a disciple of Thomas Arkle Clark, the dean of men at the UI who strictly enforced rules and regulations and dispensed a sort of puritanical advice to students.

It worked for a while with Algren although he eventually discovered alcohol and sex.

“He started eating more, stopped taking cold showers and began responding when people spoke to him,” Asher wrote. “Then in the spring of 1930 he moved into a boardinghouse at 714 Iowa Street and began sleeping with the landlady.”

The boardinghouse is long gone.

Algren also made use of Champaign’s notorious red-light district, Asher wrote, which later was the topic of an expose by the student newspaper, the Daily Illini.

The brothels were protected by the Champaign political establishment, wrote Asher.

“They had so little fear of prosecution that they operated a free shuttle service that ran between Walnut Street — the heart of the red-light district — and the campus fraternities. On any given night seventy percent of the johns in Champaign were university students,” Asher said.

He credits Daily Illini reporter Ed Borman — who for about 40 years after that worked at The News-Gazette — for exposing the vice in Champaign.

But equally responsible was another young journalist named Jack Mabley, who later was a columnist for Chicago afternoon newspapers.

Asher also didn’t mention that many in Champaign’s power structure, including the mayor, police chief, county sheriff and state’s attorney, later were indicted for malfeasance in connection with the probe of vice.

None were convicted, but that was pretty much the end of that era in Champaign’s history.

Tom Kacich’s column appears Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at



Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).