Choose Doug Truax to face Dick Durbin
The best candidate to challenge Sen. Dick Durbin
The Chicago Tribune
March 5, 2014
Illinois Republicans have had few successes in – how to phrase the problem delicately? – the 21st century. One of those successes, though, has grown into a respected, independent and, at 54, relatively young member of the U.S. Senate. And if lightning sparked by the public fury over Obamacare strikes this November, the people of Illinois could end up with two such Republican senators: incumbent Mark Kirk and promising political newcomer Doug Truax.
Not that political polls will tell you so: With a four-way joust for governor dominating attention as the March 18 primary approaches, many Republicans have yet to focus on their party’s two candidates for U.S. Senate. What’s more, conventional wisdom dictates that longtime incumbents such as Dick Durbin can’t lose. But conventional wisdom doesn’t dictate how dyspeptic voters will treat a profoundly partisan Democrat who helped lead passage of Obamacare – and who’s in his 32nd year in Congress.
So this primary race involves several imperatives – one of them existential:
If the Republican Party is to outgrow its loss of stature in Illinois, it needs to recruit and promote candidates who are more like Truax. At 43 he’s a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger and captain, and majority owner of a small Oak Brook firm that helps employers address the costs of their health care, retirement and other benefits programs.
Truax projects confidence in what a growth-oriented federal agenda could accomplish: He stresses that without more vibrant economic activity, America won’t solve chronic joblessness. He impresses us with smart ideas for rescuing entitlement programs, curbing federal tax loopholes, and empowering states to expand school choice: “I favor charter schools and maximum flexibility for parents and students to escape bad schools and a cycle of poverty.” And as a health insurance consultant, Truax offers fresh and detailed proposals for accomplishing what Obamacare cannot: affordably providing good coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions.
On many issues Truax isn’t far from his opponent, Jim Oberweis, a 67-year-old business executive who in 2012 won a seat in the Illinois Senate after five failed runs for higher offices: two earlier races for the U.S. Senate, two for the U.S. House and one for governor. Both men, that is, are mainstream conservative Republicans.
The two would, though, approach foreign affairs from different perspectives, and here Truax’s background gives him a distinct edge. While Oberweis last month told our editorial board he was “fairly satisfied with the direction” of Obama administration policies, Truax had answered our election questionnaire many weeks earlier with a comment many Republicans will see as prescient after Russia’s bold aggression in Ukraine:
“Our strong voice on the world stage is necessary – not to seek to become involved militarily, but to avert military involvement,” he wrote. “(A)s someone who is trained in military history, I know the consequences of weakness on the world stage. … I know that it tends to lead to instability and wars and that strength tends to lead to stability and peace.”
We’ve had a down-and-up history with Oberweis, most recently endorsing his 2012 run for state Senate. We wish that, after a year in that job, he hadn’t launched another bid for higher office. His best achievement in Springfield, a bill lifting the speed limit on some major roads, lost luster with the news that, since 1988, Oberweis has been ticketed for speeding 11 times.
Oberweis has more name recognition and money than does Truax. If Republicans don’t look deeper, those variables could determine this race. But with one eye on the issues that confront voters and another on Illinois’ imperiled future, the Tribune today endorses Doug Truax.