Endorsement: Peoria Journal Star endorses Dick Durbin for U.S. Senate
The race for the U.S. Senate in Illinois is a study in contrast between the incumbent, Democrat Dick Durbin, and his challenger, Republican Steve Sauerberg, perhaps to be expected of an attorney vs. a physician.
If Durbin, 63, has spent a career in Congress and is now seeking his third term in the Senate, Sauerberg, 55, has never held elected office. If Durbin's roots are deeply planted in downstate Illinois - raised in East St. Louis, lived in Springfield while representing Illinois' 20th District in the U.S. House - Sauerberg calls suburban Willowbrook home (he did attend college downstate).
If Sauerberg supported the war in Iraq and opposes a timetable for withdrawal for U.S. troops there, Durbin voted against the authorization to invade. Both candidates favor get-tough measures with a potentially nuclear Iran, though Sauerberg seems more open to pre-emptive military strike.
Sauerberg claims Durbin has "exaggerated the foreclosure crisis" and says the best way to have dealt with it would have been to lower taxes further, including a temporary repeal on capital gains taxes. Durbin voted for the bailout plan, which came with significant relief for payers of the alternative minimum tax; he also favors some forgiveness on capital gains to help spur investment. Sauerberg would extend the Bush tax cuts; Durbin would except for the nation's wealthiest.
Sauerberg may be most passionate about immigration reform, where he supports a more punitive approach - deportation of illegal immigrants following their release from American prisons, building a fence along America's southern border - than does Durbin.
Both candidates want energy independence - who doesn't these days? - and both would tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, though Sauerberg seems more of a "drill, baby, drill" advocate. On health care, Sauerberg acknowledges a crisis in cost and access, but favors predominantly private sector solutions with the exception of government cracking down on medical malpractice lawsuits; Durbin is less apt to view government involvement in health care as a negative. Both support various vehicles to promote free trade, though the one Durbin drives has some brakes on it. Sauerberg is no fan of "corporate welfare" and would explore trading farm subsidies for crop insurance.
Ultimately, we are big believers in governing from the center. If Durbin is among the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate, we suspect that Sauerberg would be among the most conservative. Both could benefit from some moderation.
If Sauerberg thinks the federal budget can be balanced by cutting wasteful spending and slashing taxes, we've heard it all before but haven't witnessed it. The result is red ink that could top $1 trillion next year and a national debt that has surpassed $10 trillion. If Sauerberg didn't see the deficits as that big a deal last spring, he's changed his tune some now. Merely chopping earmarks - one half of 1 percent of the federal budget - won't get the job done.
Meanwhile, it's inconsistent for Sauerberg to chastise Durbin for not bringing enough federal money back to Illinois while trashing the spending that would allow it, including earmarks. As far as Illinois getting a better return from Uncle Sam on its investment of tax dollars, that's far less likely to happen with a rookie legislator of the probable minority party than with Durbin, who's No. 2 in the Senate heirarchy as the Majority Whip.
Durbin has always been a strong voice for agriculture, for infrastructure investment - he'd like to see Amtrak service in Peoria. We've always found his office responsive. To our memory there has never been any doubt to speak of regarding his ethical judgment. Time magazine named him one of its "10 best" senators.
Meanwhile, Durbin is the only downstater occupying statewide office in Illinois. Sauerberg has some intriguing ideas, but this editorial board did not get a chance to interview him in Peoria this fall election season -- yes, he was invited, but could not make it within the time frame established for candidate interviews (we did interview him last spring before the primary, and he responded to our candidate questionnaire). We saw Durbin twice. While we appreciate the sour taste that some have acquired for incumbents, it would not be in Illinois' best interest to give up the clout that Durbin has acquired.
Dick Durbin is endorsed.
Peoria Journal Star