CHICAGO - For those in the Illinois Republican Party who recall the Jack Ryan debacle of 2004, the 2014 U.S. Senate primary may be deja vu all over again as party leaders communicate their opinions on candidates through the Chicago media.
This time, they're making it clear that they don't want State Senator Jim Oberweis to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard "Dick" Durbin. Republican leaders such as State Senator Christine Radogno and State House Minority Leader Jim Durkin voiced their positions to the Chicago Tribune. Radogno stating:
And from Durkin:
"Jim, while he may no longer believe some of the things he said in the past, it will come back," said Illinois Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, who has discouraged an Oberweis bid. "I don't think that will help the ticket. I encouraged him to think long and hard."
Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs, the new Illinois House Republican leader, said Oberweis should do some "soul searching." Durkin, who defeated Oberweis for the 2002 GOP U.S. Senate nomination, said Oberweis needs to be aware that a litany of controversial statements "don't wash away after the election" but "will continue on as long as you're in the public eye."
Comments from Republican financier Ron Gidwitz seemed to show the most disdain for Oberweis, noting:
"I'm not persuaded as much at all that he's got much of a chance," Gidwitz said. "It's not inconceivable he gets the nomination, but I don't see how he can beat Durbin. ... He's too far to the right-hand side of the road on these social issues."
Greg Baise, of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, told the Tribune:
"...Oberweis has the "propensity to say things controversial that make people in the party uncomfortable" and "sometimes his filters aren't as strong in how he characterizes issues."
Still, Baise said, Oberweis represents a "viewpoint of a large number of people" in the GOP and noted Durbin also has committed his share of gaffes.
"There's the old saying, 'You learn more from losing sometimes than winning,'" Baise said of Oberweis. "Hopefully, he's got his Ph.D.
None of this is particularly new as the ILGOP leadership has a history of publicly undercutting fellow Republicans. A similar thing happened in 2004, when the Republican establishment used the legacy media to press then-nominee Jack Ryan out of the race for U.S. Senate against Democrat Barack Obama. Then it was ILGOP Chairman Judy Baar-Topinka who went public with her views on Ryan.
Ten years later, little seems to have changed. It remains to be seen if Oberweis ends up like Jack Ryan, or if he ignores his Party's leaders and makes the run anyway.