CRYSTAL LAKE – Jim Oberweis is doing his talking with his walking.
The Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he knew it would take a different approach to unseat a high ranking congressman that has been in Washington for 32 years, so he went to a Democratic stronghold where he said he is changing perceptions and the political landscape.
Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, told a crowd of about 30 people Wednesday at an Algonquin Township Republican Central Committee event that his trips to the South Side of Chicago have been some of the most beneficial and rewarding experiences on a campaign that is gaining momentum.
"We are seeing a different attitude in the South Side of Chicago," he said. "I believe we are changing the entire political picture in the South Side of Chicago."
The Oberweis Dairy creator said he has made numerous trips to the South Side of Chicago to walk the streets and meet people and have important discussions with community leaders. He already has gained the endorsement of influential leaders in the African-American faith community in Rev. Corey Brooks and Bishop Larry Trotter and has more meetings with pastors scheduled.
Oberweis' growing success in Chicago is only part of a surge that has seen his polling numbers improve to a seven-point deficit to Durbin with nine weeks left until election. Durbin had a 30-point advantage in the polls over his previous opponent.
"Every vote there is like two votes," Oberweis said of gaining the support of Chicagoans. "It's going to be tough, but we have a real opportunity."
The campaign has focused on four goals, Oberweis said, with health care, the budget, tax codes and term limits the priorities. He said he would work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a bipartisan solution that decreases government involvement; push for a balanced budget such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's plan; simplify the tax code; and fight for term limits.
With no financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Oberweis has borrowed $1 million to fund the uphill push for the Senate seat. But with improving poll numbers, he said he was hopeful national money could eventually come and provide the boost to win.
"Durbin, on top of his own money, has $6 million in his campaign account," Oberweis said of the discrepancy. "But the state [Republican] party is more unified than it has been in a very, very long time and we're all working together."
Oberweis said he was confident not only in his own campaign, but that Bruce Rauner would become governor in Illinois and Republicans would take control of the U.S. Senate and maintain the majority in the House of Representatives.
Demetrios Tsilimigras, an Algonquin Township precinct committeeman, said Oberweis had all their support.
"We need you to win and Algonquin Township is going to be there for you," Tsilimigras said.