Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis' decision to use at least a half-million dollars of his own money in his race for U.S. Senate means local support from GOP leaders is as important as ever to opponent Doug Truax.
Truax, a Downers Grove Republican and businessman, has started to tout the backing of a handful of suburban Republican organizations, from Cuba Township in Lake County to New Trier, Palatine, Niles and Northfield townships in Cook County.
Cuba Township Republican Chairman Bruce Sauer said his group liked that Truax had business experience in the health care industry.
"He's not a career politician to begin with," Sauer said.
Sauer was comparing Truax to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the opponent waiting for the winner of the GOP primary on March 18. But Oberweis' time on the Illinois political scene -- primary losses for Senate and governor in 2002, 2004 and 2006, losses for Congress in 2008, and a recent win for Illinois Senate -- means Truax will try to point out to voters and endorsers that he's a fresh face.
"You lose five races in 11 years, you're going to narrow down the people that are going to vote for you," Truax said.
Oberweis, of Sugar Grove, has picked up some major suburban backing, too, winning the endorsements of GOP organizations in Wheeling and Schaumburg townships.
Leaders of both organizations pointed to the relative familiarity of Oberweis from the previous runs and his ability to use his own money toward the campaign as serious advantages when it comes to a November race against Durbin. Ryan Higgins, committeeman of the Schaumburg Township Republican Organization, said Oberweis could step on the gas with a quick infusion of campaign cash if a race against Durbin is close.
"Oberweis has the resources to make that happen instantly," Higgins says.
Campaign finance reports filed Friday reflect Oberweis' $500,000 donation to his own campaign, as well as $105,000 in contributions from others in the last three months of the year.
Truax raised about $107,000 in the same amount of time.
Those aren't necessarily big numbers from either candidate compared to even regional campaigns for Congress. For example, Republican Bob Dold of Kenilworth, running in the North Suburban 10th District, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider each raised about three times that much in the same time period.
So far, the primary race for Senate has been largely polite, especially compared to the other GOP race at the top of the ticket, where four candidates for governor trade barbs often.
Suburban groups who endorsed either Oberweis or Truax didn't have much bad to say about the opposing candidate, but their backing could mean a lot. Winning an organization's endorsement means getting your literature distributed by volunteers and often a prominent spot in a voter's guide.