Seven Republicans hoping to take on ‘formidable’ U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Kathy Salvi’s campaign appears to have the fundraising edge in the GOP’s U.S. Senate primary with more than $300,000 raised. Robert “Bobby” Piton is her closest fund-raising competitor, with $168,510 raised.

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Attorney Kathy Salvi announced a GOP Senate bid earlier this year. This picture, with Salvi, her husband Al, a former GOP Senate nominee himself, and their children is from Kathy Salvi’s 2006 Republican primary House race.

Attorney Kathy Salvi announced a GOP Senate bid earlier this year. This picture, with Salvi, her husband Al, a former GOP Senate nominee himself, and their children is from Kathy Salvi’s 2006 Republican primary House race.

Al Podgorski/Sun-Times file

Seven Republicans are trying to harness a national sense of anger and frustration in bids for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination, with the goal of knocking first-term incumbent Tammy Duckworth out of office two years after she was short-listed for vice president.

Duckworth, a Democrat, is described as a “formidable candidate” even by major Republican fundraiser Ron Gidwitz. But Democrats barely managed to gain control of the Senate in the 2020 elections, so every seat will count as Republicans try to take it back.

The candidates for the Republican nomination are Casey Chlebek, Peggy Hubbard, Robert “Bobby” Piton, Jimmy Lee Tillman II, Anthony W. Williams, Kathy Salvi and Matthew “Matt” Dubiel.

Salvi’s campaign appears to have the fund-raising edge with more than $300,000 raised, but $250,000 of that came from Salvi herself, campaign finance records show. Gidwitz, a finance co-chair of the National Republican Senate Committee, has told the Sun-Times he is backing Salvi.

Piton is Salvi’s closest fundraising competitor, with $168,510 raised. He kicked in $25,000 of that, though.

Salvi, of Mundelein, lost a six-way 2006 GOP primary bid for Congress. Hubbard and Chlebek also sought to challenge U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin two years ago.

Two thirds of GOP voters are undecided this time around, according to a Sun-Times/WBEZ Poll conducted last week. Salvi and Hubbard were the only two candidates with double-digit support— just barely, at 10% each.

Chlebek, Hubbard and Dubiel spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times about the campaign. The other candidates either did not respond to messages seeking comment or could not be reached.

Six of the seven Republican Senate candidates: (top row, from left) Anthony W. Williams, Robert “Bobby” Piton, Jimmy Lee Tillman II and (bottom row, from left) Kathy Salvi, Peggy Hubbard and Casey Chlebek. Not shown Matthew “Matt” Dubiel. 

Six of the seven Republican Senate candidates: (top row, from left) Anthony W. Williams, Robert “Bobby” Piton, Jimmy Lee Tillman II and (bottom row, from left) Kathy Salvi, Peggy Hubbard and Casey Chlebek. Not shown Matthew “Matt” Dubiel.

Campaign flyer, Facebook, Rich Hein/Sun-Times, Facebook, Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Provided

Illinois’ June 28 primary will take place a few days after the one-month anniversary of the killing of 19 children in an elementary-school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Nearly a decade after a gunman killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the Texas shooting reignited the national debate over gun laws.

On Sunday, 20 senators — 10 from each party — expressed support for a framework responding to the mass shootings, offering some measured firearm restrictions and efforts to beef up school safety and mental health programs.

When asked what he could do in the Senate to try to prevent another deadly school shooting, Dubiel, of Naperville, stressed the need to “get to the facts and get to what happened.” He insisted that “it’s hard to do that in the wake of an event.”

But he rejects the notion that “to fix the problems of the few we have to limit the freedoms of the many.”

Matthew “Matt” Dubiel. 

Matthew “Matt” Dubiel.

From Facebook

Rather, Dubiel said “I want a toxicology report of every single mass shooter” as part of an effort to find out “what is going on with the people that are perpetrating these atrocities.”

Hubbard, of Belleville, told the Sun-Times that “our gun laws are fine” but “we’re not enforcing them and we’re not using our mental health facilities.”

By contrast, Chlebek of Lake Forest said “there’s no place for guns in a school” and that the country should “apply strict measures and enforce them as far as getting permits to guns.”

The campaign websites and social media accounts of most other candidates are vague on the topic. But Piton’s website is clear: Referring to the Second Amendment, he wrote, “I 100% agree with this Amendment as it stands and DO NOT SUPPORT any rules or restrictions.”

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U.S. Senate candidate Casey Chlebek

Piton’s website includes a lengthy summary of his policy positions, including term limits for the U.S. Supreme Court.Piton, who was active in the Cyber Ninja election audit in Arizona, also continues to call for a “full nationwide audit” of the 2020 elections and “new elections for every politician that is wrongfully in their position.” He is from Geneva.

While Illinois voters went solidly for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020, Piton’s views could have some traction among Republicans. The Sun-Times/WBEZ Poll found that 67% of the state’s GOP voters believe Donald Trump actually won the election.

Asked whether it’s possible for a Democrat — Biden or otherwise — to legitimately win the White House in 2024, Hubbard said, “I don’t see another Democrat getting into the White House for at least another eight years.” She said there’s “too much damage that has been done.” Chlebek said either side could prevail.

Dubiel said he “didn’t think it was possible” in 2020 and “it happened anyway.” He also went on to call Biden and his administration “an issue of national security” in part because “I don’t think that Joe Biden is mentally capable of leading or governing.”

Republican Peggy Hubbard waits to file her nominating petitions to run for the U.S. Senate with her husband, Charlie, in Springfield in March.

Republican Peggy Hubbard waits to file her nominating petitions to run for the U.S. Senate with her husband, Charlie, in Springfield in March.

Taylor Avery/Chicago Sun-Times file

Still, Dubiel said he thinks compromise with Democrats is “absolutely possible.” He said he’s met with people who take issue with both major political parties, and he told the Sun-Times, “I thought about running as an independent in Illinois.”

“It’s darn near impossible for an independent to run with any degree of seriousness,” Dubiel said.

Hubbard also complained about the two major parties when talking about gun laws.

“This is why this country is in such turmoil right now, and they’re not listening to the American people,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard also said that compromise with Democrats is possible.

As for the other candidates, Tillman’s website says “Biden’s absolute failures on the world stage have endangered Americans’ security, reduced America’s credibility and standing, and weakened the world in extraordinary ways.” Tillman is from Chicago.

Salvi’s says “we are crippled by one-party rule” in Springfield and Washington, D.C., adding that “partisan politics and radical agendas prevail over the best interests of the people of Illinois.”

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