Illinois gives Democrat Durbin 3rd term in US Senate

By Lindsay Tanner

CHICAGO – With cash, experience and pro-Democrat sentiment on his side, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin won a third term Tuesday against a suburban Chicago physician who was seeking his first elective office.

The call was based on an analysis of voter interviews, conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

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Willowbrook family doctor Steve Sauerberg tried to block Durbin’s shot at another term by campaigning on a traditional GOP platform – opposing abortion and favoring the Iraq war and less government regulation.

Just a week before Election Day, he unveiled a new TV ad accusing Durbin of being “a partisan lap dog for the far left.”

The campaign was otherwise low-key, though in the final days it hit a tragic note for Durbin, whose 40-year-old daughter, Christine, died Saturday of complications from a congenital heart condition.

Durbin canceled his election night party and his campaign issued a statement Monday saying the family is in mourning and preparing for the funeral later this week.

Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, focused his campaign on his long track record fighting for Illinois issues in Washington, first as a seven-term congressman and more recently as the senior Democrat from Illinois, outranking Barack Obama in tenure if not stature.

His opposition to the Iraq war, plus support of the government’s Wall Street bailout and an employer-based approach to universal health care contrasted sharply with Sauerberg’s views. Sauerberg’s more laissez-faire approach to government came amid growing public concern about the failing economy and securing adequate medical insurance.

Durbin, 63, a native of East St. Louis, has been involved in Illinois politics since graduating from Georgetown law school in 1969 and going to work for then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon, who became his political mentor.

Durbin served as the state Senate parliamentarian for 13 years, and in 1982 was elected to the House representing central Illinois’ 20th Congressional district.

Sauerberg, 55, born and raised in Chicago’s western suburbs, has worked there as a family physician for more than 25 years.