I’ve never known a politician who didn’t think he or she belonged in a higher office. Alderpersons look in the mirror and see a mayor. Comptrollers and treasurers see a governor. A host of other politicians have their eyes on the U.S. Senate seat of Dick Durbin.

The senator will be 82 when his fifth term expires in 2027. He will have tied Shelby Moore Cullom’s record of 30 years as Illinois’s longest-serving senator. Durbin’s seatmate, Tammy Duckworth, is just 55, so his retirement would create a once-in-a-generation opportunity for an ambitious politician to move up. Durbin has not yet announced whether he will run again — he has said only that it depends on his “physical and mental abilities” — but there’s already a shadow primary to replace him. “It’s going to be a free-for-all,” predicts political consultant Don Rose. When U.S. senator Peter Fitzgerald announced his retirement in 2004, 16 candidates ran to succeed him. “Don’t you think it would be cool to be a senator?” one remarked. (Barack Obama, a state senator at the time, won — you might have heard of him.)

Here are our rankings of the contenders, in order of who is most likely to win.

1. Raja Krishnamoorthi
The U.S. representative from the northwest suburbs has $13.5 million in his campaign coffers — three times as much as any other Illinois member of Congress. Political consultant Tom Bowen thinks Krishnamoorthi has been “raising money like a banshee” to prepare for a Senate run. Of course, the congressman denies it: “First of all, I hope Senator Durbin continues,” he told the Tribune. “I haven’t heard any indication he’s not. … I’m not looking at it right now, [but] I’m not ruling anything out.” What might stand in his way? All those donations from pharmaceutical companies and corporate political action committees could hurt him with progressive primary voters.

2. Lauren Underwood
The U.S. representative from Naperville is an African American representing a mostly white suburban area, which would allow her to appeal to two key Democratic constituencies. Despite the fact that she’s no longer in a competitive district, she has been hiring staff members, which may be a sign she’s preparing for a run. And in a move perhaps intended to win support from progressives, she cast one of only 23 nay votes on a resolution condemning universities’ support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations. Underwood would be Illinois’s fourth Black senator, after Carol Moseley Braun, Obama, and Roland Burris.

3. Nikki Budzinski
Durbin, who grew up in East St. Louis and lives in Springfield, says he would like to be succeeded by a downstater to preserve the geographic balance of Illinois’s Senate seats. Durbin replaced a downstater, Paul Simon. Since then, though, that turf has been colored red. Budzinski, a Democrat from Springfield, is an exception, elected to the U.S. House in 2022 to represent a gerrymandered district that snakes from Champaign to East St. Louis. A former legislative director for the United Food and Commercial Workers, she is popular with labor unions, which donate heavily in Democratic primaries. Former southern Illinois congressman Glenn Poshard calls her “a real hard worker” who would make “an excellent candidate” for Senate. But Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield, says, “She is much too new. And for a downstate Democrat, the issue is getting through the primary.”

4. Alexi Giannoulias
We know Giannoulias wants to be a U.S. senator. He ran for the office in 2010, when he was state treasurer, losing to Mark Kirk. After a dozen years in the political wilderness, when he ran an investment firm, he was elected Illinois secretary of state in 2022. “Alexi got back into politics so he can take another run at U.S. Senate,” asserts political consultant Delmarie Cobb. At a recent Axios event at the Hideout, Giannoulias was asked whether he was interested in higher office. “I’m just focused on being secretary of state,” he replied. That’s what they all say.

5. Darin LaHood
The GOP will run a candidate, too, and LaHood is likely to be it. The last two times an Illinois Republican won a Senate race were 1998 and 2010 — nonpresidential years when a Democrat was in the White House, which seems to indicate that a Joe Biden reelection would help LaHood. (The Democrats also ran weak candidates those years.) Of the three Illinois Republicans in Congress, LaHood, elected to the House in 2015, is the most moderate. He’s from Peoria, which is Middle America personified. “He’s a guy who is politically disciplined and has not alienated the base,” says a conservative activist. “He can appeal to independents, too. He’s not a crazy MAGA.” Democrats would attack LaHood on abortion (he opposes) and voting with Trump on issues such as repealing Obamacare. He needs “to keep the race on economics and the lack of federal leadership, particularly with the border crisis,” the activist says.

6. Kwame Raoul
Whether he runs may depend on whether Governor J.B. Pritzker goes for a third term. “AG” stands for not only “attorney general” but “aspiring governor.”

7. Susana Mendoza
The Illinois comptroller was the biggest vote getter among statewide officials in 2022, with 2.33 million, but like Raoul, she may be more interested in the governorship. If she won the seat, the Chicagoan would be the second Latina in the Senate, after Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

8. Juliana Stratton
Paul Simon was, as Stratton is now, lieutenant governor, so there is life after playing second banana.

9. Michael Frerichs
Despite his 6-foot-8 height, the state treasurer keeps a low profile. Redfield calls him “the weakest of the incumbent constitutional officers going into 2022.” Originally from downstate — he represented Champaign County in the state Senate — he recently moved to Chicago.

10. Robin Kelly
The U.S. congresswoman from the south suburbs has statewide ambitions: She ran unsuccessfully for treasurer and succeeded Michael Madigan as chair of the Illinois Democratic Party. Kelly is interested in running for Senate, Cobb has heard: “Don’t know about her fundraising prowess, but it’s a goal.”

Most of the names on this list are in their 40s or 50s, which sets the stage for a senator who could match, even surpass, Durbin’s longevity. How cool for them.