Our endorsement: Durbin for U.S. Senate
It's easy to see how Dick Durbin has risen to the top ranks among Democrats in the U.S. Senate. He's sincere. He's smart. He's articulate. And he does his homework on the issues.
That's not to say we agree with him on every one, but there's no denying that on balance, he works effectively in the Senate, represents Illinois well in Washington and helps ensure that Washington works well for Illinois.
Seeking his fourth term at age 70, Durbin faces an ideologically fundamental challenge from Republican Jim Oberweis. Oberweis, 68, a dairy magnate and one-term state senator from Sugar Grove, considers himself "passionately interested" in tax policy and has built his campaign around a theme emphasizing comprehensive tax reform, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and reduced federal spending.
He is at his best when talking about economic issues, and he can be particularly imaginative on addressing problems -- as with the idea he introduced in the Illinois Senate for a two-tiered minimum wage system that acknowledges the difference between minimum-wage earners who are just trying to pick up spending money and those who face family and other obligations. Moreover, he clearly has continued to grow as a political leader, and his legislative work has helped him nurture a collaborative approach that defies his reputation as an political hard-liner.
But Durbin also has a strong grasp of the need for tough, comprehensive reform of both corporate and personal income tax policy. And somewhat contrary to his reputation as a devout liberal, he is not afraid to link himself to proposals with great political risk -- such as the Simpson-Bowles economic strategy that many politicians like to cite as an example of bipartisan courage in dealing with the government's economic troubles but few, Durbin among them, are willing to actually attach their names to with a vote.
He was, let us not forget, one of a handful of Democrats who had the courage in 2002 to buck the party and the national mood in voting against authorizing the Iraq War, and he remains an authoritative and independent voice on policy in the volatile Mideast.
Back at home, we've been long impressed by the cooperation he and Republican Mark Kirk have shown, not only to present strong constituent services but also to attract substantial federal support benefiting the entire state.
As we said, we are not enamored about every aspect of Durbin's tenure. We chastised him for and remain unsatisfied regarding his letter that many Illinois businesses saw as a threat regarding their political activities. We are highly skeptical of the earmarks for which he expresses an unrepentant yearning. We're uneasy about a voting record in which he sides with his party 99 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. And, we'd like to see him back up his talk about a flatter, simpler tax structure with more action.
But all things considered, we think Durbin's good for America and good for Illinois. We recommend returning him to the U.S. Senate.