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Undeterred by losses, Oberweis tries for state 25th Senate District

Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis (from left) Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond lawyer Richard Slocum are vying 25th state Senate district.

Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis (from left), Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond and lawyer Richard Slocum are vying in the 25th state Senate district. | Sun-Times Media files (left); Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media; Courtesy

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Updated: March 22, 2012 8:01AM

Dairy magnate, investment mogul and perennial candidate Jim Oberweis has become synonymous with losing in Illinois politics.

Next month, he hopes to end a decade-long string of failures in a three-way Republican primary for the 25th Senate District, covering parts of eastern Kane and western DuPage counties.

Oberweis has run for public office — and lost — five previous times dating back to 2002. He has mounted losing campaigns to be a U.S. senator, Illinois governor and a congressman — twice.

“I don’t think there’s any comparison,” Oberweis said when asked about similarities to the late Harold Stassen, a former Minnesota governor who ran unsuccessfully as a GOP presidential candidate 12 times between 1944 and 2000. “Stassen never came close. Every time, I’ve come close. I’ve been very close.”

All told, either Oberweis or his companies have sunk $3.3 million into the quest to become an officeholder, state campaign records show.

“I think there truly is a voter fatigue,” said Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond, one of Oberweis’ two rivals and a one-time aide to ex-U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. “I see it on the doorstep every single day. They want to know who I’m running against, and when I say the name, ‘Jim Oberweis,’ the common answer is, ‘Not again.’”

Seeking a seat that covers an area now represented by retiring state Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), Oberweis and Richmond are part of a field that also includes Richard Slocum, a lawyer and long-time former board member of West Aurora School District 129.

Richmond, a Batavia lawyer who also operates an oil-change company called LubePro, describes his chief attribute as his three-year stewardship of township finances. He said he was “able to lower the property tax levy every single year.”

Slocum, a Sugar Grove attorney, sat for 16 years on the West Aurora school board, serving as its president from 2004 to 2007. During his stint leading the district, its property-tax collections grew by 35 percent to $74.2 million in 2007, the year voters approved a referendum.

Oberweis said he had begun to settle into retirement in the South after his last loss, a 2008 defeat to ex-U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). But Oberweis said seeing the state teeter on the brink of economic and political collapse turned his interest from Congress back to Illinois.

“I used to be very proud to say I’m from Illinois. But when I’d go to Florida and meet new people, I would be a little embarrassed because of the poor condition our state is in and because we’ve had four governors go to jail during my lifetime. That’s crazy,” he said.

Oberweis said he does not regard this seat as a steppingstone, saying higher political office is “not on my watch list at this point.”

On the issues, all favor allowing last year’s income-tax increase to expire in 2014, and none expressed opposition to Senate Bill 512, a constitutionally questionable plan to take a bigger pension bite from existing state workers.

On gambling expansion, Slocum and Oberweis don’t consider themselves advocates, but Richmond expressed an openness to it and to the potential of a Chicago casino.

All three favor imposing term limits on state legislators, though they disagree on the length. Richmond and Oberweis back an eight-year limit while Slocum proposes a 12-year limit.

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