Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) plans to run for reelection next year.
“I am out there running,” he told POLITICO earlier this week.
The majority whip has been raising money but has not hired campaign staff yet.
A look at the 1996 United States Senate campaign between then Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin and Republican Illinois State Rep. Al Salvi sheds an all-too-familiar light on how the effort to prevent gun violence has become a make-or-break issue for Illinois voters in next Tuesday’s special election to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr’s seat.
After edging out the moderate Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra in the 1996 GOP primary, Al Salvi represented the most appealing, convincing candidate the Republican Party had presented in Illinois and was believed to have a legitimate chance at winning the Senate seat. The young NRA poster boy for Illinois spent his time on the campaign trail asserting the ’94 federal assault weapons ban was “silly,” calling the ’93 Brady Handgun Bill “cosmetic,” and offering to legalize concealed weapons in order to cut crime.
Meanwhile, Salvi’s opponent, then Representative Durbin was actively campaigning for sensible gun violence prevention measures. After co-sponsoring the ’93 Brady Handgun bill and supporting the ’94 assault weapons ban, he told Illinois voters, “We will not be a safer nation, a safer state, if people are carrying guns around shopping malls and restaurants.” Durbin joined forces with President Reagan’s former press secretary and gun-control activist Jim Brady to film a campaign ad that portrayed Salvi as an extremist on gun issues. In a Sunday radio interview just days before the election, Salvi responded by falsely charging that Jim Brady “used to sell” machine guns. Salvi later apologized and conceded, “Turns out that was a different Jim Brady.”
Salvi’s last-minute gaffe and extreme stance on guns proved to fracture the Illinois Republican party and rally Illinois voters around candidates who supported gun violence prevention. In one example, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police opted to support Democratic House candidate Rod Blagojevich over the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep Michael Flanagan, who earlier that year had supported an attempt to repeal the federal assault weapons ban. In his endorsement, the union’s president, Bill Nolan, said, “(It’s) almost a one-issue thing, and that is the guns.”
Salvi’s extreme stance on guns cost him the election. Durbin won the race by a landslide, leading Salvi 57 percent to 40 percent. Durbin acknowledged in his victory speech how important gun violence prevention was to Illinois voters: “I hope this victory tonight is a message that no political official in this state should ever, ever be cowered by the gun extremists.”
Seventeen years later, the gun debate, yet again, takes center stage in the Chicago-area congressional race to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacated seat.
New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a vocal advocate for commonsense gun violence prevention measures, has shown a considerable interest in the first election since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. His super PAC, Independence USA, has already spent $2.1 million in TV ad buys attacking former Congresswoman Halvorson and other candidates who refuse to take a stand on gun violence prevention measures. The Independence USA ad endorses former state Rep. Robin Kelly who released her own video highlighting her support for sensible gun measures, including bans on assault weapons and high capacity gun magazines.
In a race to represent a district severely shaken by gun violence, the movement to prevent gun violence again proves to be a critical issue. If history is any indication of which candidate Illinois voters will elect, Debbie Halvorson’s extremism may cost her.
SPRINGFIELD — If U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk vacates his seat before his term ends in 2016, Illinois’ governor has the sole power to appoint a temporary replacement to serve until the next congressional election.
Although Kirk’s office made no public reference Monday to the possibility of the 52-year-old Republican ending his political career after suffering a stroke on Saturday, a number of other Illinois politicians have stepped down after suffering similar medical problems, including former Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville and John Maitland of Bloomington.
Kirk himself was intertwined in the political and legal melee that ensued the last time Illinois had a vacant Senate seat.
Despite having been indicted on federal corruption charges just weeks before, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill out Barack Obama’s unexpired term in the Senate in 2008, causing outrage in both Springfield and Washington D.C.
While Burris was serving, Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias were battling it out in the 2010 election.
Two voters sued in federal court, arguing the 17th Amendment requires the state to hold a special election as soon as possible.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually sided with the voters. By the time the matter reached the U.S. Supreme Court, however, Kirk had already been elected to the Senate seat.
Ken Menzel, legal counsel to the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the Illinois General Assembly has not adjusted current state law to reflect the appeals court decision, leaving the issue of special election timing in legal limbo for now.
Does Quinn have to appoint a Republican to fill out the rest of Kirk’s term, appoint a Democrat, or hold a special election in the event that Kirk dies or steps down?