PI Original Josh Kalven Thursday February 12th, 2009, 12:03pm

Durbin Calls Giannoulias A "Formidable" Senate Candidate

Politico has an article out today on some of the complications surrounding the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Illinois. The dilemma for Democratic leaders is this: Burris is considered a weak candidate, particularly considering the Blagojevich connection, but the optics of ...

Politico has an article out today on some of the complications surrounding the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Illinois. The dilemma for Democratic leaders is this: Burris is considered a weak candidate, particularly considering the Blagojevich connection, but the optics of the party coalescing behind a white primary challenger -- say, Alexi Giannoulias or Jan Schakowsky -- aren't great.  So what are the Dems to do?

Well, first off, Sen. Dick Durbin has only good things to say about Giannoulias:

Durbin called Giannoulias a “formidable” candidate for the Senate seat in 2010.

Asked why he called Giannoulias formidable, Durbin called him a “hard worker” with great fundraising potential.

“Although he’s new to the scene in Illinois, he’s worked our state,” Durbin told Politico. “Most people from Chicago don’t know much about downstate [Illinois]. Alexi is an exception.” [...]

Durbin said his comment “wasn’t a comparison” between Giannoulias and Burris. “All I’m saying is that if you ask me, Alexi Giannoulias is a formidable candidate. I believe he is.”

Then there's this idea, which may appeal to Burris' ego:

One Democratic operative in the state said “there is talk” among Illinois Democrats of pushing the White House to broker a deal to appoint Burris to a position that would take him out of the Senate and help clear the field in 2010.

Another important piece of the puzzle is labor's role in a statewide Democratic primary.  Jerry Morrison of the SEIU Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website) made clear to Politico that his union is not too pleased with Burris' lack of commitment to the Employee Free Choice Act:

Jerry Morrison, the Illinois political director of the Service Employees International Union, said Schakowsky and Giannoulias both back some of the labor union’s top priorities, including the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize. But Morrison said Burris has “let it be known through labor circles” that he’s undecided on the bill. His position could cost him critical labor support.

Obviously, there are a lot of plates spinning at the moment, but a few of them are sure to fall in the near future.  After all, if you're Giannoulias or Schakowsky, there's not a lot of time to wait-and-see.  Hard to believe, but the 2010 primary is now less than a year away.

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