Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Weigh Consequences of Senate Run

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Weigh Consequences of Senate Run

Article excerpt

Which Illinois Democrats are going to run for Senate next year and when are they going to let us - and each other - know?

For the party's sake, soon.

The Republican establishment has lined up behind Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra, giving him more time to organize and raise money to run for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul Simon.

Some Democrats would like to endorse a candidate and avert a contested primary that would only help the Republican nominee. A primary could run $2 million and the general election $10 million.

"In the best of all possible worlds, there would be one consensus Democratic candidate who could be nominated without a divisive and expensive primary," said Rep. Dick Durbin of Springfield, who might run. "But it's the nature of Illinois politics that it's usually much more spirited."

The push to settle early on a consensus candidate stems partly from the Democrats' disastrous election experience last year. A bitterly contested primary gave the party's gubernatorial nomination to Dawn Clark Netsch, who was overwhelmed by Gov. Jim Edgar and was blamed in some quarters for the party's loss of other statewide offices and the Illinois House.

"Many of the same people who implored us not to have an endorsement because it would been sticky - both racially, male-female, etc. - are now those same ones that are saying, `Well, we should have endorsed,"' said state Democratic Chairman Gary LaPaille.

But not every contested Democratic primary has ended in disaster. Simon won his Senate seat in 1984 after finishing first in a four-way primary; the party's slated candidate, state Senate President Philip Rock, finished fourth.

"It's more important to see whether you think you can carry your message to the people of Illinois than to convince party leaders that you're viable or not," said Democratic Rep. Lane Evans of Rock Island, another possible Senate contender.

The names most mentioned by party insiders, consultants and lawmakers in the hunt to succeed Simon are Durbin, Evans, Sen. Alan Dixon, former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan and former Democratic National Committee chairman David Wilhelm.

For now, the contenders seem to be waiting for someone to make the first move. …

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