The intimate hotel ballroom didn’t bat an eye when the AP announced a solid win for Sen. Dick Durbin, nor did it seem to notice that Jim Oberweis, the Republican challenger, had ceded the race to Durbin, securing him a fifth term. Only when Durbin came out to claim an early victory almost a half hour later, did one of his supporters exclaim, “Oh, he won!”
Despite the celebrations that followed, however, the elephant in the room reminded Durbin’s supporters of a difficult term ahead as Republicans snagged senate seat after senate seat from the Democrats, securing an easy majority by 10:30 p.m.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), who represents Chicago’s Far South Side and southern suburbs, believes the Democrats’ job in congress won’t be too different with a Republican majority in both houses, just that, “Obama will have to issue more vetoes.”
Since Congress has been so deadlocked, though, she doesn’t think that Senator Dubrin’s responsibilities will change much. “He’ll still be the second-in-charge of Democrats in the Senate,” she said.
As election results poured in, suspicions fueled by weeks of polling were confirmed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be the majority leader come January, after he defeated a hard-fought Alison Lundergan Grimes in an early election call, scoring 56 percent of the vote shortly after 7 p.m. West Virginia, a state without an incumbent, voted overwhelmingly for Republican Shelley Moore Capito, with 67 percent of the vote. In another difficult state, Iowa, Democrat Bruce Brailey lost by more than seven points.
When it comes to working with the new Republican-led Senate, Durbin’s communication director cited says “it’s to early” to think of a bipartisan strategy.
“The senator has always been known for his bipartisanship – he was in the Gang of Eight and the Simpson-Bowles commission,” said the bow-tied director. “We’ll play it by ear, but our priorities for now are [Illinois.]”