Kathy Salvi for the Republican primary for Tammy Duckworth’s U.S. Senate seat – Chicago Tribune

So popular a senator is Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth that she made Joe Biden’s shortlist as a potential running mate. Recent reports have surfaced that Biden’s people was concerned that Donald Trump would weaponize Duckworth’s birth in Thailand, even though her father was an all-American U.S. Marine. If that doesn’t qualify you as “natural born,” we don’t know what does. We’ll wager some of that same crew now wishes Duckworth had been chosen instead of Biden’s struggling vice president, Kamala Harris.

But that’s history. In the present, Duckworth runs unopposed in the Democratic primary and has reported more than $7 million in campaign funds. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Duckworth’s seat as solidly Democratic, one of only nine Senate races currently in that category among the 35 seats up for grabs this fall.

That said, and as quixotic as this quest may seem, Republicans have fielded a slate of seven primary candidates. Republicans are counting on disaffection with the Biden administration, suffering its way through a slew of crises, bringing about a red wave. It would have to be a tsunami to reach Duckworth, but such winds might yet blow, Republicans hope.

Who has the best chance of beating Duckworth and doing the best job of representing the Land of Lincoln? The clear choice is Kathy Salvi, an attorney and former assistant public defender in Lake County.

Salvi, 63, has six children and three grandchildren and lives in Mundelein with her husband, Al, also an attorney and a former state representative who ran for U.S. Senate in 1996 and for Illinois secretary of state in 1998.

Salvi’s opposition? As in other long-shot races, some of the candidates are returnees from prior campaigns and yet others appear more interested in advancing causes or themselves than waging a serious campaign.

But Robert “Bobby” Piton, a resident of Geneva and the managing partner of an investment services company in St. Charles, is a credible and active candidate. Piton was born in Chicago, has an MBA from Northwestern University, and says “it’s time to … replace all corrupt politicians with God-loving Americans that simply want to live freely and do what is in their family’s best interest and future generations.” He says Duckworth is “beyond corrupt, she is evil.”

Piton, a committed “America First” conservative, told us that his “ability to use data far exceeds anyone else in the race,” making him best positioned to beat Duckworth, even on the modest amount of money he has raised. He also said, “I am the only candidate for U.S. Senate opposed to going to war with Russia, period” and he drew our attention to “disgusting” oil prices, arguing that there should be more drilling on federal lands.

The slate also includes Pastor Anthony Williams, who says his main reason for participating in the primary is to “tackle the key issues of American violence and the dire need to proclaim it as a public health and mental crisis.” Williams’ singular, worthy quest has seen him stand as a past candidate in Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green Party primaries.

Another rival is Jimmy Lee Tillman II, son of former Ald. Dorothy Tillman and musician Jimmy Lee Tillman. He says he is the “the most conservative candidate on the ticket.” Tillman, who has run in many primaries, is closely aligned with former President Donald Trump and campaigns in Trump’s signature “MAGA” hats.

Other choices for Republicans include Peggy Hubbard, who claims to be “unbought and unbossed.” Born in St. Louis, she’s a Navy veteran, former police officer and a retired analyst for the IRS. Although lacking political experiences, she says she would focus on “renegotiating lousy trade deals, fight for our military and veterans, support law enforcement, support criminal justice reform, support the American people, build up our economy and most impoverished areas, and stand up to the politically correct outrage mobs.” She also declares herself a strong Trump supporter.

Casey Chlebek is a Polish-born businessman and the former president of the Illinois division of the Polish American Congress. He has a successful real estate business, supports traditional conservative positions and he also ran in the 2020 primary, finishing last.

Finally, there’s Matthew Dubiel, who owns the radio station WCKG-AM in Elmhurst and has focused on parents rights. He shares the conservative positions of many other candidates but places notable emphasis is on “medical freedom,” as he has been critical of mask mandates and other COVID-19 governmental acts. Dubiel began his career as an intern for the radio personality Steve Dahl and fashions himself as the maverick outsider in the race. We take him at his word, although he’s not alone.

By contrast, Salvi has reasoned, moderate, carefully considered positions along with a respect for the traditional machinery of democracy. She tells us she wants to unify the warring wings of her party, adding that her campaign has been gaining momentum in recent days, drawing on her family’s deep political network.

“I believe that Tammy Duckworth is defeatable in this particular cycle,” she told us, “because the election will be a referendum on the Biden agenda and she has been silent on so many things. This seat has traditionally switched hands. And, in this state, we’ve been better served historically by having balance in the United States Senate. I think we’ve lost that in the past six years. I happen to be running as a Republican but I also have lived my life as a neighbor and friend who doesn’t consider political affiliation. I plan to reach out to all people of goodwill and that’s not corny campaign talk.”

Fair enough. Maybe this cycle will be different. Either way, Republicans’ best chance will be not with a salvo but with Salvi.

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