Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias kicks off his general election contest today at the Springfield home of Sen. Dick Durbin, who will be the chairman of Giannoulias' campaign.
The selection of Springfield is strategic, since central and southern Illinois will be battlegrounds in the race between Giannoulias, the state treasurer, and the GOP Senate nominee, Rep. Mark Steven Kirk. Giannoulias lives on Chicago's Near North Side and Kirk's home is in north suburban Highland Park.
Durbin, the No. 2 Senate leader, is the only statewide Illinois officeholder who lives outside the Chicago area. Raised in East St. Louis, Durbin is popular Downstate. He accompanied then-state Sen. Barack Obama while Obama was running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, helping introduce him to other parts of the state.
Giannoulias already has run statewide as governor. Kirk outlined his plans Wednesday at an Illinois Republican Party breakfast at the Union League Club. "I've already been from Rockford to Cairo, but I am less well known in central and southern Illinois, so I am going to be spending a lot of time down there," he said.
Durbin and Giannoulias are expected to focus on job creation at today's event. Durbin is one of the chief drafters of the Senate Democratic jobs packages. He has been working on legislation dealing with spurring small business growth in part by making access to credit easier.
On the campaign trail Giannoulias has been touting how he leveraged Wells Fargo bank's desire to continue to do business with Illinois -- with $25 billion of state deposits -- in 2009 when the bank wanted to liquidate Hartmarx, a men's clothing company in Des Plaines. Giannoulias pressured the bank to find a purchaser, which it did, saving 600 jobs.