Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) defeated Republican challenger Jim Oberweis in what was a generally one-sided contest Tuesday evening.
ABC, NBC, and CBS projected Durbin's victory Tuesday based on exit polls. Libertarian innkeeper Sharon Hansen came in last.
Ahead of the election, Oberweis struggled to gain ground on Durbin, who served in the House beginning in 1983, was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and has served as the Senate Democratic Whip since 2005. Durbin led Oberweis in all 15 major polls conducted in the race, with a lead ranging from six percentage points to a whopping 23 percentage points.
Oberweis, a dairy magnate and Illinois state senator who previously ran for U.S. Senate in both 2002 and 2004, had hoped to capitalize on Congress' historically low approval rating in his challenge of the popular Democrat, arguing that the three-term senator is a "career politician" who had spent too much time in Washington, D.C., already.
On the issues, Durbin, a liberal Democrat, and Oberweis, a conservative Republican, offered two distinct options for Illinois voters. The two disagreed sharply on health care reform, immigration, climate change, gun control, abortion rights and marriage equality. Durbin also made it a point to associate Oberweis with the tea party in attack ads.
The two candidates did find one unexpected point to agree on: both agreed the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program, which went into effect this year, was a good idea for the state.
Oberweis previously ran unsuccessfully for Illinois governor in 2006 and for the House in the state's 14th congressional district in 2008.
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