Illinois GOP Senate nominee Mark Curran on Mitch McConnell: ‘He should have gone a long time ago’
President Donald Trump gave Curran, a long shot to beat Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, a shout-out at his Saturday rally in Janesville, Wisconsin.
WASHINGTON — Mark Curran, the Republican Senate nominee from Illinois, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday that GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been in office too long and should not be in the Senate.
“He should have gone a long time ago. He should not be in the U.S. Senate. He should not have been there that long,” Curran said about the powerful fellow Republican.
Curran, a former Lake County sheriff, is in an uphill battle against Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, the front-runner in heavily Democratic Illinois, where Democrats hold every statewide office.
Durbin also enters the final weeks of the campaign with an overwhelming lopsided financial advantage. Durbin, as of Sept. 30, had $4.5 million cash-on-hand compared to Curran’s ending 3rd quarter balance of $35,199.
A main attack against Durbin by Curran, who supports term limits, and a third candidate, businessman Willie Wilson, is his lengthy tenure in the Senate.
Durbin was first elected to the Senate in 1996, after representing a downstate Illinois district in the House. Durbin is the No. 2 Democratic leader in the Senate.
McConnell is in a reelection fight in Kentucky, where Democrat Amy McGrath is arguing McConnell has been in the Senate too long. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984.
I interviewed Curran on Sunday, the day after President Donald Trump gave Curran a shout-out during a rally in swing state Wisconsin. Trump backers crowded into the rally at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, just over the Illinois border.
With Durbin having all but a lock on the seat, Curran has been running without much help from the Republican Senate political operation and GOP donors. For this 2020 Senate cycle, Curran has only raised $289,634, a vast contrast to the $9.8 million Durbin has collected.
McConnell’s team is focused on the handful of seats with potential to flip the Senate to the Democrats.
In Janesville, after having Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson join him on stage, Trump said, “I also want to introduce the Republican candidate for Senate from the state of Illinois, Mark Curran,” pointing to Curran, who was in a VIP seating area off to the side of the stage.
Curran rose and saluted Trump and gave him a thumbs up.
“Mark? I heard you were here, good,” said Trump.
Curran, holding up a red cap, shouted, “Thank you” and “Make it great again.”
Trump said, “That’s great. Good luck. I hear you’re doing well, Mark,” which seems not the case when it comes to Curran’s electoral prospects.
Trump’s nod is of limited use for Curran, since Joe Biden has been holding a lead of at least 15 points or more in Illinois polls.
I asked Curran what good Trump’s shout-out will do for him. Curran, who has been distancing himself from Trump on immigration — and casting himself as someone willing to cross the aisle — told me, “People know we are not one and the same.” Trump may help Curran in southern and central Illinois, already GOP turf.
We got to talking about term limits, and I asked Curran — given his objections to Durbin’s years in the Senate — about McConnell.
“Mitch McConnell shouldn’t have served in the Senate for decades,” said Curran.
Curran’s argument is that without term limits, elected officials “become consumed with what they need to do to stay in office.”
I asked him if the Senate majority leader should have retired.
Curran replied, “Of course ... he should have retired 10 years ago, 12 years ago.”
TRUMP, PRITZKER TANGLE
Immediately after mentioning Curran, Trump said, “Illinois could use a new governor.”
“That guy doesn’t know what’s happened. They got to open up that state.” Trump said,
On Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said with COVID-19 infections rising, Trump has “made it nearly impossible” for states to approve widespread reopenings.
Pritzker also accused unnamed Trump “allies in our state” of contributing to the spike in Illinois COVID-19 infections by “urging people” to not pay attention to social distancing and other rules.
The governor made his remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview with host Jake Tapper.
Trump came to Wisconsin as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported a record number of COVID-19 cases. Illinois also smashed state records last week, with hospitalizations and the positive test rate jumping, leading Pritzker to declare the state is “in a new wave.”
Asked by Tapper to reply to Trump’s slam, Pritzker said, “The president has made it nearly impossible for states to open up any more than they are now.
“…This pandemic has been around now for seven to eight months, and without much help from the federal government. We’ve been fighting it off.”
Trump is making it harder, the governor said, by “modeling bad behavior. He doesn’t wear a mask in public; he has rallies where they don’t encourage people to wear masks in public.”
Tapper asked Pritzker why Illinois is going “in the wrong direction.”
Pritzker said a factor is “the leadership level at the federal level is so bad.”
He added, “We are trying to continue to convince people to do the right thing, but it is the president’s allies in our state, all across the state, who are simply saying to people, ‘Don’t pay any attention to the mitigations, don’t follow the rules.’”
Last month, the Illinois Republican Party failed in a bid to get a federal court order to strike down Pritzker’s executive order limiting crowd sizes.
WILLIE WILSON’S CAMPAIGN CASH
Wilson promised a few months ago to put $5 million of his own money into his self-funded campaign. The latest Federal Election Commission records show he only gave $3 million. A spokesman for his campaign said he may put in $2 million later. He had $2.2 million cash-on-hand as of Sept. 30.
FEC rules require all campaign-related spending to be disclosed.
It appears Wilson is mixing personal, political and philanthropic giving to advance his Senate bid.
Spokesman Scott Winslow said Wilson donated 27 million masks with a value of between $15 million and $18 million. Wilson has pointed to these masks as an argument for his election. The spending does not appear on his FEC report. Wilson also contributed millions of dollars to churches and people who are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Winslow said.