In the midst of yet another snowy week in Chicago, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, somehow created a firestorm by going to Florida just days before Tuesday’s primary race.
In a phone call Friday now that he’s returned to Illinois, the U.S. Senate hopeful tells Early & Often he was trying to avoid the doghouse.
“Look I’ve tried to stay away from personal matters,” Oberweis said. “I was married to my first wife for 35 years, happily. I was stunned when she left. It was the worst thing that happened to me in my life.
“One of her major complaints was that I worked too much.”
Oberweis said he dropped weight (which wasn’t a bad thing, he adds) and went through a personally trying time.
“I’m trying not to repeat that mistake,” he said. Birthdays are important to his wife, Julie, so he believed it best to visit her. “I believe that no matter what, family has to come first.”
Asked what birthday this was for his wife:
“You want me to tell you her age?” Oberweis laughed, noting that would only get him in more trouble. “I’m not sure if she would particularly like that to be discussed.”
Why not fly your wife to Chicago instead?
“She is going to be coming up,” he said. “She’s coming tomorrow as a matter of fact.”
Primary rival Doug Truax said Oberweis’ explanation doesn’t wash.
“I don’t really trust much of what he says. We’ve been through this now with him ducking out of debates,” Truax said. “He said he was only going to be gone a couple of days, but it’s been a week. I just view it as a basic honesty thing. I just don’t trust it.”
Truax added that family always comes first but said voters now must question if Oberweis is truly committed to the campaign.
“You’ve got to be committed to be doing this if you’re going to go the distance. I don’t think he’s committed enough to do it, this proves my point,” Truax said. “I don’t think we can trust him because of what’s been going on. The undecideds I think are breaking my way.”
Oberweis has taken much heat after media reports raised questions about his residency in Illinois because the Florida condo where his wife lives lists the couple’s primary homestead exemption.
“That is absolutely, completely, totally nuts,” Oberweis said. “There is no truth to it whatsoever. Why somebody would make something like that up — this is why good people don’t want to run for political office. The only thing that I can tell you is when we bought the condominium, my wife has intended on spending winters down there. She claimed the homestead exemption in Florida … I had to withdraw my homestead exemption in Illinois, which means I pay more real estate taxes in Illinois, not less. I have been in my same home for the last 36 years.”
It’s the same house in far west suburban Sugar Grove, he added, where he raised his children.