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With 'rumors' flying about his political future, Sen. Dick Durbin will decide on fourth term next year

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) avoids committing to a fourth term, telling reporters Thursday that one question he still must answer is whether "that fire [is] still in your belly."
[Photo by Dave McKinney]

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sen. Dick Durbin said Thursday he will decide whether to seek a fourth term as the state's senior U.S. senator sometime after the first of the year, leaving unanswered one of the state Democratic Party's big storylines heading into the 2014 elections.

Asked about his future political plans, Durbin offered a non-commital answer to reporters after an Illinois delegation breakfast at the Democratic National Convention.

"I'm planning to run for re-election, but I'll make my final decision next year," said the Springfield Democrat, who turns 68 this fall.

By then, he will know whether President Barack Obama wins a second term and whether Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate, where he has risen to become the second-highest-ranking Democrat behind only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

If Durbin were to pull the plug on a political career that began with a 1982 run for Congress and hasn't included a loss since the 1970s, he would set off a power vacuum within his own party that could have implications for people like Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who long has been mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.

Republicans also are eagerly eying Durbin's plans with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others possibly in play for that post should it open up. Schock also is drawing interest as a potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate.

Having shaken off a health scare and recently losing 20 pounds with a diet and exercise regimen, a healthy-looking Durbin said his decision will begin "first and foremost" with a discussion with wife, Loretta, and their family.

"That's where the conversation starts, and it's where it should start. I've been lucky enough to serve, been lucky enough to reach an important part of leadership in the Senate and what a great state to serve. But my juices are flowing. I love this business, and I love this state, and I'll match my schedule with any elected official in our state," Durbin said.

"I cover it from one end to the other every time I get home. I draw energy from it. It really inspires me," he said.

Another factor in the decision to run again is whether Democrats retain control of the Senate, though he described that consideration as "secondary" when compared to the input his family offers.

"You take a look at it, and you try to measure things in terms of yourself. You know, do you still have it? Is that fire still in your belly? Do you really want to get up and do this? Because in the Senate, it's not a two-year decision like in the House. It's an eight-year decision: It's a two-year campaign and a six-year term. Are you ready to engage and commit for eight years of your life? I love these six-year terms, but it also calls for a little more thought and patience before you make the decisions," said Durbin, who would be 76 after a fifth term.

He underwent surgery in 2010 to remove a non-cancerous tumor and insisted Thursday is in good health to mount another run should he decide to. Durbin was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and won re-election in 2002 and 2008, never drawing less than 56 percent of the vote. Previously, he was a seven-term member of the U.S. House.

"I feel good. I'm healthy. The rumors just fly when you've reached my stage of life: 'Oh, he went into surgery two years ago.' Everything turned out perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better result. And I feel healthy," he said. "I even lost a few pounds recently."

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