Even if there is a red wave in Illinois, GOP’s Salvi faces huge challenge to overcome Dem Duckworth in U.S. Senate race

Sen. Tammy Duckworth heads to the Tuesday vote leading Kathy Salvi in two key metrics: polls and fundraising.

SHARE Even if there is a red wave in Illinois, GOP’s Salvi faces huge challenge to overcome Dem Duckworth in U.S. Senate race

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., left, from Hoffman Estates, is seeking a second term. Republican challenger Kathy Salvi, is an attorney from Mundelein.

Sun-Times file (Duckworth); Lynn Sweet (Salvi)

Even the red wave that panicky Illinois Democrats are bracing for likely won’t do near enough to lift up GOP Senate nominee Kathy Salvi, in an uphill battle to catch frontrunner Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth since she jumped into the contest.

Duckworth, 54, from Hoffman Estates, who moved up to the Senate after serving two terms in the House from a northwest suburban district, is leading Salvi in two key metrics: polls and fundraising.

That means Duckworth is ending this campaign for a second term with her spots running constantly in the expensive Chicago television market and her ads hitting voters’ mailboxes, while Salvi has no campaign cash to do either.

Neither Duckworth nor Salvi had a heavy public campaign schedule this week, a clue that the two women see the outcome as pretty much baked.

With not much help from Republicans, Salvi, 63, an attorney from Mundelein who lost a GOP House primary bid in 2016, has struggled with fundraising.

The numbers are lopsided.

As of Oct. 19, according to Federal Election Commission records, Duckworth reported receipts of $18,399,401 to  $1,222,928 for Salvi, of which $480,000 came from her own pocket. Libertarian Bill Redpath, a financial consultant from West Dundee, raised $75,161.

Personal financial disclosures filed with the Senate Ethics Committee show that Salvi’s income from her law practice was more than $2,432,321. Duckworth’s disclosures from the last three years show she earned royalties of $1,247,500 from her memoir, “Every Day Is a Gift,” with the subtitle summing up her adult life: “Soldier. Senator. Mother.” Her book deals with, among other things, losing her legs and most use of an arm when a rocket struck her U.S. Army helicopter in Iraq in 2004, and giving birth to two daughters while in Congress.

Illinois — and other states — will likely see a shift toward Republicans on Tuesday.

Salvi is a traditional conservative burdened in 2022 with trying to straddle the two Republican parties in Illinois. She is not an election denier or on the fringe, yet she must appeal to voters who are.

She needs support from what’s left of the GOP establishment and the Trump faction in Illinois, where GOP governor nominee Darren Bailey is the leader of the election deniers and conspiracy theorists.

That’s likely a reason why, during the WTTW/WBEZ/Sun-Times joint forum in October, when asked about a Republican she admires — the questioner meant someone living — Salvi stayed out of trouble with her GOP base, naming a long-dead trio of presidents from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Ulysses Grant.

In a Sun-Times interview and during the forum Salvi  ducked questions about a number of items the Senate has or could be voting on. Anti-abortion, Salvi will likely end the campaign never answering if she would support a bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., banning abortions nationwide after 15 weeks.

Duckworth serves on the Senate Armed Services; Environment and Public Works; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.  

She was on President Joe Biden’s short list to be vice president.

Duckworth was born in Thailand to a Thai-Chinese mother and an American father. Her official Senate travels have taken her, in her first term, to South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and Iraq.

A measure Duckworth championed — funding to replace lead pipes, a big issue in Chicago and the rest of the state — was incorporated in the new Infrastructure law. Duckworth’s bill to provide lactation rooms in airports for nursing mothers also became law.

Salvi said in a Sun-Times interview last month, “I know that money is important, but I think I’m the right candidate at the right time with the right message against the right opponent. And I just think this is going to be a shocker this election, everything that I see points to success in November.”

Polls suggest Salvi’s optimism is unwarranted, even with a potential red wave looming over the competitive races in Illinois.

Duckworth was 10 points ahead in an Emerson College Polling/WGN/The Hill Illinois poll conducted October 20-24.

While Duckworth is in safe territory, the trend shows why Democrats are alarmed in the days before Tuesday’s vote: Salvi, though still behind — and with no substantial campaign organization — gained eight percentage points in a month.

A Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ October poll put Duckworth at 50% to Salvi at 36%, with 5% of those surveyed for Redpath.

One analyst watching the Senate race — who is in Duckworth’s camp — and did not want a name used in order to be candid, said, “Salvi’s greatest strength is that she has no definition. She is a generic Republican. She will get whatever a generic Republican gets and over perform Bailey in the suburbs where she is not the anathema that he is.”

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