Freshman state lawmaker announces 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Mere days before she will be sworn in for her first day as a state legislator, Representative-elect Anne Stava-Murray (D-Naperville) announced her plans to run for Senator Dick Durbin’s seat in 2020.

“Senator Durbin…hasn’t even said he’s running, so I don’t know why people are jumping the gun and telling me that the incumbent is my opponent when the incumbent’s office didn’t even confirm that he’s running,” Stava-Murray said via Skype Wednesday afternoon. 

Durbin has not officially announced his re-election campaign effort is underway, but Democratic party insiders expect him to run. Several privately scoffed at Stava-Murray’s announcement, describing it as brash, foolhardy and naive. 

In a recent interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Durbin joked that he’s “raising money and trying to lose some weight. That’s usually the first indication that you’re up for re-election.” 

Days prior to those comments, Illinois’ junior Senator Tammy Duckworth acknowledged Durbin had previously considered retirement, and she publicly prodded him to run for a fifth consecutive term. 

“I don’t think he’s quite made up his mind yet, but I am working very hard and that’s my main focus because I think Illinois needs Dick back in the Senate,” Duckworth said in a Capitol Connection interview. 

If Durbin does decide to run, he would be the second powerful Illinois Democrat to take fire from Stava-Murray. 

The rookie lawmaker campaigned on a vow to vote against Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) retaining his title. Within days of announcing her decision to a private House Democratic conference, Stava-Murray says she faced “next level retribution” from Madigan’s allies.

Stava-Murray claims Madigan denied her a chance to sit on a committee, though the Speaker’s office has not yet officially finalized committee assignments for the upcoming session. She also complained that Madigan gave other longer serving House members preferential treatment in deciding the House floor seating chart. 

She believes those moves, combined with a number of calls she received from her colleagues, were part of an orchestrated effort to intimidate her. She said she’s reaching out to civil rights attorneys in preparation to file an official complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

“You can tell when it comes from the speaker, because everyone says almost the same exact thing,” she said. “When I was getting calls, it was like they were saying line-for-line the same thing, like they were pausing to read from email.”

Stava-Murray says those menacing phone calls pressured her to run for a much higher office. 

“I have to run for a different seat, but I’m also going to do what I can in the meantime,” she says, offering some relief to constituents concerned her attention will be divided.

Stava-Murray said she intends to mask the origin of her ideas so they can survive the legislative process. She detailed how she plans to work behind the scenes to “do the leg work” and craft legislation, then ask other members to introduce her bills under their name because she fears Madigan won’t allow bills with her name on them to pass out of committee.

“In some ways, I’m a pass through entity that makes my colleagues smarter,” she said.

Durbin, 74, won his first election to the Senate in 1996 and sits on the Judiciary, Appropriations, and Rules and Administration Committees. His website champions his work to shepherd a bill through Congress that outlawed smoking on commercial airlines.

Stava-Murray, a Millennial and mother of three, expressed her gratitude for veteran lawmakers who “paid their dues” and paved the road before her, but then painted the Senate Minority Whip as out of touch with the average voter.

“I would be attacking him from the perspective of being more aligned with the interests of the people,” she said.

The freshman Democrat said her support for an immediate transition to a national single-payer healthcare system, or ‘Medicare-for-all,’ restrictions on 3D-printed firearms, and stronger punishment for polluting companies set her apart from Durbin on matters of policy.

“Medicare-for-All, he really hasn’t [supported], she said. “I think he sort of vaguely hinted that it should happen, but [he] hasn’t really made an effort to make that really happen.

Durbin argued in favor of tougher gun laws from the floor of the Senate on at least six occasions in 2018, according to a brief review of floor debate, and there is no available evidence that he would support 3-D printed weapons.

“Sterigenics is still operating,” Stava-Murray added, as she rattled off further critiques of Durbin.

The Willowbrook company produces sterilizer for medical devices and has come under scrutiny from state and federal regulators amid public outcry over the emission of a cancer-causing chemical. The company has denied any wrongdoing and insists it operates within the boundaries of the law and public safety.

In an October public statement, Durbin called for increased monitoring and public hearings. 

“He has taken a stand, kind of. But that company is still running,” Stava-Murray said. “So do I think he has been successful in that? No.” She did not explain how a U.S. Senator might legally shutter a private corporation.

The two Democrats also disagree over matters of political strategy. 

In a 2017 radio interview, Durbin said Democrats could lose seats in Washington by pushing too far to the left. 

“I think you can overdo it,” Durbin told WLS. “We have to really appeal to that sensible center. It’s a thin stripe now. It used to be a lot wider stripe, but it’s an important and determining factor in most elections.”

“That’s assuming that a centrist Democrat can talk more with a Republican than a progressive Democrat, and I don’t think that’s actually true,” Stava-Murray countered.

“Going more center doesn’t necessarily make sense to me when center means catering to big money and party donors and not to the people.”

Durbin’s political aides did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. 

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that committee members are compensated with a $10,000 perk. That benefit is only provided to committee chairs. Freshman members are not eligible to chair committees. 

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