After learning the Associated Press called the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in his favor Tuesday night, Jim Oberweis told a reporter that he was carrying no lucky charm.
“We have ice cream, what more could you want?”
Oberweis, 67, of Sugar Grove, declared victory Tuesday night as he had about 57 percent of the vote with 83 percent of precincts reporting. Oberweis had pinned much of his campaign on the fact that the name recognition associated with his family’s dairy business and past political campaigns would help carry him over the finish line and ultimately help him dethrone 16-year Senate Democrat Dick Durbin.
Oberweis told cheering supporters Tuesday night that “this state is in deep trouble. Our country is in deep trouble. We need to make changes in the direction . . . And I believe if I win this Senate seat, it means Republicans will be taking control of this U.S. Senate, and that will change the direction of this country.”
The last leg of the race proved a difficult one for Oberweis
As his opponent, Doug Truax, a fresh-faced political neophyte and West Point grad, sprinted toward the tape, voters learned Oberweis had jetted to sunny Florida last week — during one of the coldest Chicago winters on record. He said he went to be with his wife on her birthday.
Oberweis, a millionaire who was the front-runner in the race, weathered the controversy.
But observers said it re-ignited a belief that Oberweis can, at times, appear politically tone-deaf.
Oberweis has lost five elections in the previous 11 years — two for U.S. senate, two for the U.S. House and one for governor.
Truax, 43, of Downers Grove, tried to highlight Oberweis’ political baggage.
Oberweis addressed past missteps at beginning of the race, saying he had learned from his mistakes.
Perhaps the most glaring was a notorious commercial that Oberweis ran in a previous Senate race. In that 2004 TV spot, Oberweis, who is now serving in the state Senate, sits in a helicopter that’s hovering over Soldier Field and points out that every week enough “illegal aliens” enter the country to fill the stadium.
Another obstacle in the upcoming race will be competing with Durbin’s campaign war chest of $5 million.
Oberweis, who has poured more than $500,000 into his primary race, would not say how more of his own money he’d be willing to spend.
Truax had argued that although he did not have the funds to match Oberweis, he’d ultimately be more electable because he did not carry the political baggage of having lost so many elections.
Truax’s last election was for high school class president in the small New Mexican town of Deming. He won.
On Tuesday night, Oberweis watched election returns at the Glen Ellyn location of That Burger Joint, an Oberweis Group restaurant. He railed on Durbin in his victory speech.
“While he’s been in Washington, our national debt has gone from $1 trillion to $17 trillion. This has got to stop. We need to balance our budget,” he said.
Oberweis said Doug Truax called him and conceded. He called Truax a “heck of a guy” and said the Republican Party needs Truax to defeat Durbin.
Earlier in the evening, Oberweis ordered a burger and fries but grabbed the wrong bag of food, apologizing to the teenage girls to whom the food belonged.