Oberweis, Truax race about who strikes right note with voters

Written By By MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter Posted: 03/17/2014, 11:14am
Array Republican candidate Jim Oberweis addresses his supporters and the media after making a phone call to concede to Democrat Bill Foster in 2008.

The last name of one candidate sounds like a hardware store: Doug Truax.

His opponent’s name is synonymous with milk, ice cream and perpetual candidacy: Jim Oberweis.

The two will face will face each other in the March 18 Republican primary. The winner will fight an uphill battle to unseat a Senate veteran whose 16-year career has made him a household name: Dick Durbin.

Truax, 43, is a father of three who owns a health care consulting business and lives in Downers Grove.

Oberweis, 67, is a father of five who ran a successful family owned dairy farm and asset management business before handing each to his sons. He lives in Sugar Grove.

Although business became their focus, both men have rock music in their pasts.

Truax, a West Point grad, once played drums in an alternative rock band called the Stucco Monkeys with several Army buddies while stationed at Fort Carson. He can’t remember the meaning of the band’s name.

Oberweis played rhythm guitar in a rock ’n’ roll band called Man Kind in college. Significance of the name: “None,” according to Oberweis.

If this race were a rock song, backup singers would be chanting “Durbin” in the background.

His name looms large. And references are often accompanied by each candidate talking up their “electability.”

Oberweis boiled his electability down his highly recognizable name and highly available fortune (he donated $500,000 to himself in January).

“I have 75 percent statewide name ID, which is a huge asset, and I don’t have to spend millions of dollars to build that up, which another candidate who didn’t have that type of ID would have to do,” Oberweis said.

Truax sees it from another angle. “You lose five races in 11 years, you have a significant amount of negative name recognition.” And on the money thing: “He’s used his own money in his previous losses, that’s not the end all,” Truax said.

Early in the race, Oberweis acknowledged past campaign gaffes, including a campaign commercial in which he flew over Soldier Field in a helicopter, telling voters that enough “illegal aliens” cross the border every week to fill the stadium. “I have learned from my mistakes,” Oberweis told the Sun-Times.

Truax said this week he has about $100,000 in his war chest. He argues he is a fresh face that’s unencumbered by the political baggage Oberweis must carry from having lost five elections in the previous 11 years (two for U.S. senate, two for the U.S. House and one for governor).

Both men want to do away with Obamacare. Truax has even posted a number of videos on YouTube explaining why the Affordable Care Act is a terrible idea.

Truax has a golf handicap of about 10, played rugby in college and parachuted at night while in Army Ranger School.

Oberweis has a 19 golf handicap. His rating in the game of chess is more impressive — just short of expert. He was once president of the Illinois Chess Association. “But I’m afraid I don’t have much time for chess now,” he said.

A Tribune/WGN poll released recently put Oberweis ahead with a commanding lead of 52 to 15 percent.

“I think he’s a nice young man,” Oberweis said. “But [he] has really no experience, and I don’t believe he has a statewide team or the statewide resources that would be necessary to give Mr. Durbin a very serious run.”

Away from the campaign trail, both men are animal lovers.

Truax’s Golden Retriever is named Lincoln.

Oberweis, a former dog owner, has two cats: Belle and Boots.

Truax’s last election was for high school class president in the small New Mexican town of Deming. He won.

Oberweis last ran for state senate in 2012. He won, too, and currently holds office.

Whoever wins the race will become the underdog against Durbin and his $5 million campaign fund.

Truax’s favorite underdog storyline come from the movie “Hoosiers.”

Oberweis was hard-pressed to name his favorite underdog tale: “I don’t know.”

The Republican Senate primary itself is an undercard race, with the GOP gubernatorial candidates sucking the conservative air out of the state.

A few more backstory tidbits:

Both men said they did hard labor for money as kids.

Truax pulled weeds in chili fields.

Oberweis baled hay on the family farm before scooping ice cream at the family store. He later worked as a junior high school math and science teacher for one year in Aurora and said of his disciplinary tactics: “I was a fairly good-sized guy, kids didn’t try to mess around with me too much.”

Truax said he has crossed paths with Oberweis several times and described their relationship as “cordial.”

Does Truax drink Oberweis milk?

“I have, and it’s good. . . . We don’t drink it right now, but I’m not ruling it out for all time.”

Email: mdudek@suntimes.com

Twitter: @mitchdudek

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