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Kirk Campaign Offers GOP Hope, Headaches

Rep. Mark Kirk plans to run for Senate in 2010, leaving his House seat vulnerable to Democrats. (David Banks/AP)

By Ben Pershing
Mark Kirk giveth, and Mark Kirk taketh away.

The Illinois Republican lawmaker announced today that he will run for the Senate in 2010, giving hope to GOP strategists in that chamber. But the race poses a headache to party leaders in the House, who must find a way to hold onto his current seat.

Since the day President Obama was elected to the White House, his old Senate seat has been the subject of controversy. After being accused of trying to benefit personally from the position, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich confounded his fellow Democrats by appointing Roland Burris to the seat. Burris has had some missteps of his own, and announced recently that he would not mount a bid to keep the seat next year.

Republicans believe that all the controversy and scandal fatigue in Illinois could help them steal the seat in a state that has otherwise been trending blue.

Enter Kirk, whose profile -- a moderate from the vote-rich Chicago suburbs who knows how to raise money -- makes him an attractive statewide candidate. A handful of Democrats are considering a run, with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias widely viewed as the strongest contender.

But the Senate GOP's gain is now the House GOP's loss.

Obama took 61 percent of the vote last year in Kirk's district, making the seat a very tough hold for Republicans without the popular incumbent on the ballot. (The 10th District covers the affluent North Shore area above Chicago.) Despite the Democratic tide across Illinois last November, Kirk won reelection with 53 percent of the vote against Democrat Dan Seals, who may run again this cycle. Media reports have also mentioned state Sens. Michael Bond and Susan Garrett as possible Democratic contenders and state Rep. Elizabeth Coulson as a prominent potential Republican candidate.

Whichever candidates emerge for a general election, both sides are sure to face an expensive campaign, given the pricey Chicago media market.

Kirk's departure also means the loss of yet another prominent GOP moderate from the House, continuing a trend that has sapped the party's centrist wing of many of its best-known members in recent years.

Of course, simple math dictates that a single Senate seat is more valuable to the party than a single House seat, so national Republicans will forgive Kirk for giving up the House seat -- as long as he wins that Senate race, that is.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 20, 2009; 3:18 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Campaign , GOP Leaders  
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Kirk should win this seat, in both senses of the word.

Illinois Democrats are a disgrace, and the state badly needs a functioning two party system.

Kirk is a thoughtful moderate and if elected he will improve the upper chamber even as his departure from the House lowers the average quality of that body.

Posted by: STUSWEET | July 20, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Kirk is just what the people of Illinois need. A thoughtful, independent leader to guide us through these troubling times.

After being the national laughing stock, it is time for Illinois to elect an honest and able leader, Kirk is that guy.

Posted by: ILanonymous | July 20, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Kirk has problems in Ill. His vote on CAP and TRADE was wrong. Southern Ill. residents get to vote on Senators and many are very unhappy with his vote. Given another choice, Kirk won't get the votes. If he is as he says he is, a Republican, then he better get with the republican program.

Posted by: anniestl | July 20, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Liberals say he's too conservative, conservatives say he's too liberal. Kirk sounds like a true moderate and somebody who will be a breath of fresh air in a state where we've grown far too accustomed to reading about our elected officials in federal indictments. It looks like the republicans finally decided to get a proven winner to run.

Posted by: deuce3 | July 20, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty bummed that we're going to be losing our Congressman, but he is definitely the guy we need to be our new Senator. I just hope he can quickly teach that body what fiscal responsibility really means.

Posted by: dukiedrew | July 20, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

The district I live in borders Mark Kirk's district. Though I'm a Republican, I won't vote for him and will actively campaign against him because of his vote on cap-and-trade. Anyone who voted for that garbage shouldn't hold public office.

Posted by: gigi0102 | July 20, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I visited the VA hospital in northern Illinois while in the area for a conference. The thought that it would've shut down without Mark's intervention is proof enough to me that he is the right guy for the job. I can't vote for him, as I'm out of state, but I'm going to do everything I can to help him get elected. We need more veterans in the Senate.

Posted by: dukiedrew | July 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

This was the best news for Illinois in a decade. After years of Democratic control, Kirk offers us a way to become a politically competitive state again. Single party dominance, like business monopolies are a cancer for all of us as the citizens and consumers alike. Kirk has been an independently motivated legislator with no chains to anyone. Sensible people here in Illinois are quite pleased.

Posted by: jmrpmc1 | July 20, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Ummm... moderate? From the guy who said he was a'ok with the profiling of Muslim men? (Chicago Tribune, 11/28/05; Chicago Tribune, 12/5/05; Chicago Sun-Times, 12/15/05]

Or who suggested that we send condoms to Mexico to fix our immigration system?

No Msrk Kirk is no moderate. That may work for him in the 10th CD but statements like that don't win statewide elections.

The number of foreign-born citizens in Illinois grew by 175,000 (30%) since 2000. This compares to growth among native-born citizens of only 200,000 (2.5%).

Out of more than 8 million registered voters in Illinois, 556,468 (6.9%) are Latino and 135,626 (1.7%) are Asian American.

In metro Chicago (home to 61% of all Illinois registered voters), Latinos make up 10.2% of registered voters, and Asians make up 2.4%. This compares with Kirk's own district, where Latinos are 5.9% of registered voters but Asians are 4.2%.

Also consider this. The last time a republican won for Senate was in 1998 with Fitzgerald beating Mosley-Braun with 50.3% of the vote (according to state board of elections website). No candidate can afford to alienate an increasing Latino and Immigrant vote.

Posted by: nathanArr | July 20, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I can't see how Kirk can win the Senate race. As someone pointed out, he's too liberal for the right wing, and doesn't have enough centrist appeal to win over enough moderate indies or Dems. This is a state which has trended hard away from the GOP and Kirk doesn't have enough strength to change that. This has nothing to do about his being a good guy or a bad guy...just the political reality of Illinois in 2009-10.

Posted by: taylorb1 | July 20, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

The Illinois GOP has shot itself in the foot so many times in recent years that "Republican" is almost a dirty word in much of Illinois.

That having been said, in Mark Kirk the Republicans have finally, for once, put forth a viable candidate. At his speech today Kirk was careful to stress that he is not an "ideologue," which is precisely what he needs to tell Illinois. He needs to do everything he can to reassure Illinois voters that he won't be pushing the GOP's asinine social conservative values.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 20, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Kirk is a real disappointment in our district. He's a master of ducking issues. In a local meeting, my wife asked him to explain the sorry state of US health care. She commented that France was ranked number one and that this ranking corresponded to our experience living there for eight years. Kirk's response: "Well, in the UK they have waiting lists." Translation - duh, that question wasn't in my briefing book.

I wrote him about the estate tax and received a condescending letter -- before 9/11 -- about how the estate tax was passed to fund WWI and we no longer need it. Moreover, it was double taxation -- never mind the excise tax and sales tax are double taxation, too. Now that we're a nation at war, he hasn't changed his position.

Sorry, but Kirk is no moderate. That's just the advertising jingle he's paid for.

Posted by: j_martens | July 20, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Mike Kirk is an exceptionally poor choice for any Republican elected position. Mike Kirk is a true "Republican In Name Only".

He is a RINO.

Most recently Kirk voted "yes" for the cap & trade bill which is described as the most massive tax increase in American history.

True Republicans do not raise our taxes.

Mike Kirk has a long history of voting in favor of left liberal issues. Mike Kirk is a Democrat wearing a RINO hide. Kirk is not a Republican. I urge all readers to research Kirk carefully. Upon learning truth about Kirk, you will do all you can to have him either removed from office or to prevent him from taking an elected office. Kirk is bad news.

Mike Kirk is a RINO. Research Kirk, discover truth on your own. The best truth is truth you discover on your own.

Okpulot Taha
Choctaw Nation
Smart Girl Politics

Posted by: PurlGurl | July 20, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

the only problem i see with him is his support to screw the people of this country with a vote for cap and trade,and cannot help but think maybe he was bought off on that vote,why else would anyone with half a brain vote for something as stupid as this? either he is stupid,or a sellout,either way,illinois could do better. this goes for all who voted against the people,they know who they are,republican and democrat alike.

Posted by: silusdogood | July 20, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see how he can be considered a viable GOP candidate when he totally abandoned his district and any pretense of fiscal responsibility with his vote for Cap-and-Trade. He is simply another RINO who needs to decide whether he wants to be a true conservative and vote as such or simply follow Arlen Specter's lead and let his district/state know his true political ideology.

Smart Girl Politics

Posted by: dublin1062 | July 20, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Mike Kirk voted yes for "cap and trade".
His vote is a vote to raise taxes.
This is a direct slap in the face of the Republicans who supported him. Like the other RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), he will be targeted as a turncoat.

...and the cock crowed a first time.

Smart Girl Politics

Posted by: SylviaSoraya | July 20, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

amen stusweet and ilanonymous

Posted by: meepster | July 21, 2009 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Mark Kirk needs to ante up and begin telling the voters the truth. This man is a Democrat and needs to either run as one or move out of the way and let a real Republican run. Anyone who voted for Cap and Trade needs to be run out of office for killing jobs and raising taxes.

Smart Girl Politics
Rino Watch Group

Posted by: RinoWatch1214 | July 21, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Not being from Illinois, I don't get to vote on this one, and I'm not that familiar with Mark Kirk.

But I will just observe that, If liberals are saying "he's no moderate" and conservatives are calling him a RINO, then, guess what? He is a moderate.

I doubt he will have a serious primary challenge, but you purist conservatives can go ahead and try to block him. And vote for the Dem instead of Kirk in the fall as well, just to show him who's boss. Please.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | July 21, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I have supported Mark Kirk for the last three elections but have great reservations about his seeking a senate seat given his vote on the cap and trade. This is such an egregious, hastily written effort,one can only wonder why he would support the bill. He certainly hasn't been very public about his rationale.

Posted by: rts4ducks | July 21, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse


Another NEOCON is going to FAIL!

Posted by: onestring | July 21, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Mark Kirk is a total phony who is Barack Obama’s favorite Republican. The mainstream media and “Beltway Republicans” are trying to shove Mark Kirk down the throats of Illinois Republicans. They will not succeed.

We are going to defeat the mainstream media right here in Illinois.

We Illinoisans want an Illinois senator, not one whose “wife” never lived in the state and filed for divorce in Virginia. Some “marriage.” Some leader. If Kirk could not convince his wife to live in Illinois why should we trust anything he says? Until Kirk addresses pervasive rumors about his personal life and his role in the Mark Foley pedophilia scandal he is not a serious candidate for office.

Andy Martin
Republican for U. S. Senator
Professor of Law (Adj.)
Executive Editor
Toll-free (866) 706-2639
Cell (917) 664-9329 (not always turned on)
Author of:
Obama: The Man Behind The Mask

Posted by: andymartin | July 21, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

U know the more things change the more they stay the same. As a past aide to Senator gEO-kARIS I told her that Kirk would win She did not believe it. There were a field of ten candidates including Ms. Donnelly. Kirk won and then won the general election. The man is nothing but class, knows the issues and can one day be president if the chips fall right. I believe that he knows the issues that face this country better than the president. He knows foriegn policy, the military and budget issues. The conservatives in the Republican party have to realize that Kirk is the best chance they have to regain the seat.

Posted by: Fern245a | July 21, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Just what we need another rich white guy in the senate. somebody else who can follow Sen. Hatches orders. I suppose we are supposed to forget about Kirk's support of the Bush policies. He's better than Burris but that doesn't make him a good choice.

Posted by: jlatkinson | July 22, 2009 5:48 AM | Report abuse

"I can't see how Kirk can win the Senate race. As someone pointed out, he's too liberal for the right wing, and doesn't have enough centrist appeal to win over enough moderate indies or Dems."

This person is honestly the most clueless person I have ever seen. Lets truly examine Mark Kirk's voting record without all of the bias.

Republican Positions and Votes by Congressman Mark Kirk in the 111th Congress:
Obama Budget-Republican
Card Check-Republican
$787B Stimulus-Republican
$410B Omnibus-Republican
Cap & Trade-Democratic
Gov't Health Care-Republican
Illegal Amnesty-Republican
Border Wall-Republican
Keep Gitmo-Republican
Afghan timetable-Republican
Balanced Budget-Republican
Missile Defense-Republican
Ledbetter Act-Republican

Posted by: vanosrapidamente | July 22, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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