Curran knows he's an underdog against Durbin -- but voters "like the underdog"

  • Mark Curran

    Mark Curran

  • Dick Durbin

    Dick Durbin

Updated 3/18/2020 6:13 PM

Newly minted Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mark Curran knows taking on veteran incumbent Dick Durbin -- the second-most powerful Democrat in the chamber -- is an uphill battle.

He knows Durbin has an expansive campaign organization and that the Democrat is vastly better funded.


But Curran, a Libertyville attorney who served 12 years as Lake County's sheriff, relishes his underdog role.

He compared himself to Rocky Balboa, the cinematic club-fighter-turned-boxing-champ.

"People like those stories," Curran said Wednesday. "They like the underdog -- as long as it's not an underdog that bores them."

Curran claimed victory in Tuesday's primary election with about 41% of the vote in a five-way race, unofficial results showed. No other candidate came close.

Curran now can focus on Durbin -- a Springfield Democrat whose 24 years in the Senate followed 14 years in the U.S. House.

He said he'll rely on his experience before juries to win over voters. In a courtroom and in politics, he said, emotion can win over logic.

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"Having been a successful trial lawyer, I understand that I have to energize people," Curran said. "Do I have the ability to do that? Absolutely."

A Durbin representative couldn't be reached.

In social media posts, Curran has called Durbin a "swamp creature," using one of President Donald Trump's campaign references for the nation's capital.

On Wednesday, Curran said he regrets using that phrase. But he also said 38 years is enough time in Washington for Durbin.

"Your average Illinoisan is thinking, 'Go get a job,'" Curran said. "'See how hard it is out there.'"

Curran is far behind Durbin when it comes to fundraising. Durbin had more than $4.6 million saved for future TV ads, polling and other expenses as of late February, a preelection filing showed. In stark contrast, Curran had only $9,964 saved and $10,000 in debt at the same point, records show.


"We're going to need money," Curran said. "I need enough money to be competitive and get my message out."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money for GOP Senate candidates, didn't respond to interview requests.

During the primary, Curran -- a former Democrat -- was blasted by a rival for comments he made about Trump shortly after the 2018 election. Curran narrowly lost the sheriff's post to Democrat John Idleburg that November. Before the results were clear, Curran told WBBM 780-AM that Trump hurt GOP candidates.

"We, as Republicans, should probably look to take him out in some way, shape, or form because ultimately, he's horrible for our brand," Curran said at the time. "If he's the future of our party, put a fork in it."

Looking back, Curran said he spoke "in frustration" about Trump because he knew his exit as sheriff would mean employees would lose their jobs or be demoted.

Still, Curran admitted the blue wave that swept many Democrats to victory in Lake County reflects an anti-Trump sentiment among voters.

"President Trump doesn't play well around here," Curran said Wednesday.

Regardless, Curran said he voted for Trump in 2016 and will do so again this fall.

"He's our guy," Curran said.

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