Durbin was nominated to run for governor in 1900, and easily won the convention vote.
Opinion was strongly against Democrats, and the leading members of the party refused to run for governor that year. The party fielded John Kern, a former state senator, to oppose Durbin.
Durbin became the first governor to win by majority in twenty-five years. Durbin's primary goal as governor was to bring efficiency to the state, and reform the government to function more economically, and to enact progressive legislation.