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Sen. Raoul: Zopp more qualified for Senate than Obama was

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp is more qualified for the post now than President Barack Obama was when he ran for the Senate in 2004, one state senator said Thursday.

“If you look at President Obama’s experience at the time he was running for U.S. Senate, yes, [Zopp is] better than President Obama,” Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, told reporters. “President Obama did not have the experience of being in the U.S. attorney’s office, running the Cook County State’s attorney’s office. President Obama didn’t have the experience of being the senior vice president and general counsel of three major corporations. President Obama, you know, he was a community organizer but he did not run the Chicago Urban League.”

“I don’t think we’ve had a candidate like this,” said Raoul, who replaced Obama in the Illinois Senate.

Raoul’s comments were made Thursday before the Democratic Party’s annual breakfast in Springfield.

Zopp, a former Chicago Board of Education member, scored a victory Wednesday when Cook County Democrats voted to remain neutral in the March 15 primary for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth also is vying for the seat. It’s a crowded field, with State Sen. Napoleon Harris, of Harvey, and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin also seeking the party nomination.

In a video message played at the breakfast, Sen. Dick Durbin said he supports Duckworth.

Zopp said she’s “ecstatic” about the Cook County Democrats’ decision.

On Thursday, Duckworth said her campaign expected the Cook County decision. “With so many great Democrats in the primary, it’s the right thing to do because it allows all of us to get out there and campaign,” said Duckworth, an Army veteran.

On comments by the Zopp campaign regarding Zopp’s experience, Duckworth said, “We all bring our unique experiences to the issues. I’ve worked very hard for this state over the years and I will continue to.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, said no endorsement on the U.S. Senate race would come from the party on Thursday.

He said he abstained from the Cook County vote Wednesday.

Zopp said she and Raoul have been friends and colleagues for a long time and she agreed with his assessment.

“I do have a breadth of experience that is unrepresented in this race,” she said.

But Zopp could face criticism for decisions made by the Board of Education when she was a member.

For instance, the board voted to close a historic number of public schools.

Zopp said it was a “very difficult decision” but it was the right one and she doesn’t regret it.