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For U.S. Senate, U.S. House 9th and 13th districts
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 10/23/2008 12:05 AM

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"What have you done for me?"

A good question that voters are asking in deciding whether someone holding an elected office should keep that office. Because public service doesn't mean what is said in a quick sound bite, but what has been done to improve the lives of constituents in the years the incumbent has held office.

In that regard, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin has done very well. Although he has gained some national prominence, he has not forgotten about taking care of the folks back home.

He has used his clout as a member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to secure millions of dollars for road and transit improvements in the Chicago area and throughout the state.

Durbin has been a leader in supporting initiatives to make college more affordable.

He has been a voice for those struggling to get by. He has led efforts to raise the minimum wage, to provide more financial support for education programs that help children from low-income families succeed in school and to improve nutrition and housing programs.

He has come to the aid of Illinois veterans in vigorously working to change disparities in their benefits. Durbin fought to reverse cuts in valuable scientific research at the Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratories.

On the national scene, Durbin has been a leader in initiatives to improve food safety, preserve Social Security and reform health care.

His reservations about invading Iraq - registered in his vote against this military intervention - have proven to be on the mark.

It is for these reasons we endorse Durbin in the U.S. Senate race.

His Republican opponent, physician Steve Sauerberg, is telling voters that one of his strengths is that he is not a "career politician." But Sen. Durbin has done pretty well in representing Illinois in his political career. Too much would be lost by replacing Durbin with an inexperienced newcomer to public office who has failed to generate any voter interest in his campaign.

Certainly Durbin is not in touch philosophically with many voters in this state - particularly the suburbs - as one of the more liberal members of the Senate. We'd prefer he would fit the profile of a moderate. But Durbin's political leanings would only bother us if they got in the way of providing balanced, thoughtful, responsive and effective representation of all the people in our communities here in the suburbs and throughout the state. That is not the case.

Illinois has a strong leader in the Senate in Dick Durbin. We urge voters to keep him there.

9th House District

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, 64, of Evanston, is seeking her sixth term representing the 9th Congressional District that includes portions of Des Plaines and Rosemont. Her Republican challenger is first-time candidate Michael Benjamin Younan, a 32-year-old manager of medical offices and a United States Air Force veteran who says he is fed up with being nickeled-and-dimed by government. We understand and appreciate the sentiment, but suggest Younan run for a lower-level office. He needs a deeper understanding of the issues and the legislative process. We endorse Schakowsky.

While she is more liberal than we are on some issues, we believe she did the right thing in voting for the financial bailout plan. She also has long been a strong, outspoken opponent of the misguided Iraq war. Schakowsky knows her district well. Her rise to House leadership should continue to help her constituents and Illinoisans secure our share of needed federal funding. Green Party candidate Morris Shanfield of Chicago also is running.

House District 13

Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale is facing one of the tougher battles of her political career as she seeks a sixth term representing a district that includes southern DuPage County in addition to portions of Will and Cook counties. Her Democratic opponent, Scott Harper, 47, of Lockport, has run a vigorous campaign and is knowledgeable on the issues.

But he doesn't make a compelling enough argument for change in this case. Biggert, 71, is endorsed over Harper and Green Party candidate Steve Alesch, 53, of Warrenville.

Biggert works tirelessly for her district and understands her constituents. Her work on energy issues and ensuring funding for Argonne and Fermilab stand out as does her moderate social views. We were disappointed in her vote against the financial bailout on the first try, but believe she made the right decision when she voted for it the second time.

With Democrats likely to stay in control of Congress, it will be important for Republicans to find ways to work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner. Biggert has shown she can do just that.