Durbin campaign reports millions more than Durkin's

Saturday, July 13, 2002

With the general election four months away, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has an overwhelming advantage over rival Jim Durkin in the battle for campaign funds.

Durbin, a Democrat in his first term, had $4.7 million on hand June 30, according to his campaign.

Aides to Durkin, a Republican state representative from Westchester who defeated two millionaires in the March GOP primary on a bare-bones budget, said he had less than $1 million at the end of June.

Durkin spokesman Thom Karmik said the campaign "probably" had several hundred thousand dollars but was still preparing a Federal Election Commission report due Monday.

"We don't have that power of incumbency," Durkin campaign manager Brock Willeford said.

The Durbin campaign released a summary of its report Friday. That report showed he raised about $755,000 since April and had spent about $350,000 in the three months afterward, for a total of about $2 million during the current election cycle.

Durbin spokeswoman Stacy Zolt said the campaign was meeting its fund-raising goals.

Expensive primary

Willeford said Durkin had less than $10,000 after the primary, which cost the campaign about $300,000. Since then, the Republican has held a series of small fund raisers, Willeford said.

The state GOP is reeling from a corruption scandal involving Gov. George Ryan's tenure as secretary of state and the resignation of party chairman Lee Daniels, the state House GOP leader, amid allegations that his legislative staff did campaign work on the taxpayers' dime in 2000.

Willeford acknowledged the party's troubles have stung Durkin.

"With problems facing the Republicans, fund raising hasn't been easy for anybody," Willeford said. "I think people are moving beyond that. We're definitely moving beyond that."

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., are expected to help with upcoming Durkin fund raisers in Illinois and Washington.

Even before the primary, GOP strategists said other Senate races across the country were better prospects for helping them regain control of the Senate. Some hoped that Durbin's campaign spending would at least be challenged by the personal wealth of Chicago attorney John Cox or Aurora businessman James Oberweis, but neither won the GOP nomination.

A Chicago Tribune poll in late April had Durbin leading Durkin, 49 percent to 32 percent. Durkin aides acknowledge more recent private polls they have seen show Durbin ahead by 10 to 15 percentage points.

Durkin's campaign argues it still has time to make the case that Durbin is out of touch with the state's voters.

"All of the money in the world is not going to buy Dick Durbin a voting record the people of Illinois don't want," Karmik said.

Zolt, however, contends Durbin's growing campaign fund is a strong sign of voter enthusiasm for the senator and that Durkin's money troubles say the opposite.

"The fact is, Illinoisans are not happy with the Republican Party now," she said.

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