Supporters of Democratic House contender Raja Krishnamoorti, I learned, tried but could not to head off Sen. Dick Durbin endorsing rival Tammy Duckworth -- which he did on Monday, at an event highlighting jobs at an Elk Grove Village metal manufacturer.
Krishnamoorti wanted Durbin to remain neutral in what is shaping up as the biggest Democratic primary fight next March in Illinois, for the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District, anchored in the northwest suburbs.
Durbin in recent memory has intervened in a Democratic primary only twice -- when then Sen. Barack Obama was in the 2008 presidential contest and when Duckworth made her first House bid in 2006.
"I don't usually get involved in primaries," Durbin said after he and Duckworth toured the manufacturing floor of Bley LLC in the northwest suburb. "It's not the smartest thing for someone to do, because, you know, friends will be on the other side," he said.
Given their relationship, Durbin's endorsement of Duckworth was expected. It will be very helpful in the fund-raising efforts of the former Veterans Affairs assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs.
Durbin met Duckworth when she was recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, after she lost her legs and shattered an arm when her helicopter was attacked in Iraq. She was Durbin's guest in the House gallery for President Bush's 2005 State of the Union speech and by the end of the year, Durbin helped launch her political career -- a House bid where she won a Democratic primary battle but lost the general election to Rep. Peter Roskam.
Citing their long relationship -- Durbin said Duckworth was like a daughter to him -- he said, "I'm going to help Tammy Duckworth in any way that I can. By endorsing her today, campaigning for her, helping her raise money. "
Krishnamoorti was in San Francisco on Monday meeting with potential donors. His team does not consider Durbin's endorsement a game changer: He continues to raise money and develop his ground game.
Krishnamoorti backer Bob Peickert, the DuPage County Democratic chairman, told me "because the senator endorsed Tammy last time she ran, I can't say I am totally surprised by it." As for the impact, Peickert said it is "hard for me to say. . . . I don't know it will mean all the much."
Durbin is "respected out here, people might follow his lead. It boils down to who will reach more people in the district and explain their positions on critical issues," Peickert said.
Job creation is a central theme for Duckworth. Bley was picked as the backdrop for the endorsement because the precision machinery, fabrication, manufacturing and machine building company was able to expand and hire more workers with the help of a federal $5 million grant, generated as part of President Obama's stimulus package.