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Kirk Opts Out of Senate Race (Or Maybe He Doesn't)?

Rep. Mark Kirk will not run for the Senate from Illinois (or will he?). Photo by Sabah Arar of AFP/Getty Images

Update, 10:30 p.m.: Rep. Mark Kirk and Illinois Republican party chairman Andy McKenna are now engaged in a staring match with the Senate nomination in the balance.

After deciding not to run early this afternoon and telling several insiders he was out, Kirk seemingly had a change of heart -- believing that McKenna might be talked out of the primary race. (The Congressman acknowledged as much in an e-mail exchange with Amy Walter of the Hotline earlier this evening.)

Sources close to McKenna insist he will not blink and that he is in the race to stay. If McKenna can't be talked out of the race, then Kirk will be out (again) -- although there is not likely to be any resolution until Monday at the earliest, according to those close to the situation.

Update, 4:17 p.m.: Although Kirk has already told several national Republicans today that he will not run for the Senate, there is an ongoing effort now to convince him to re-think that decision, according to several sources close to the discussions. Pressure is now being brought to bear on Andy McKenna, who, according to knowledgeable sources, had told Republicans insiders that he would not run if Kirk got into the race. Once Kirk signaled he was indeed running, however, McKenna reconsidered and made clear he would in fact stay in. Sources close to McKenna say he has no plans to drop out of the race.

The plot thickens...

Original Post

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R) will not run for the open seat of Sen. Roland Burris (D) in 2010, a stunning reversal from just 48 hours ago when Kirk signaled to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) that he would make the race.

Kirk's decision, a blow to Senate Republicans' chances in Illinois, came in the wake of Burris' formal retirement this afternoon.

It also followed a meeting of the Illinois Republican congressional delegation on Thursday in which his colleagues refused to back Kirk in a primary against Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna due, in large part, to his vote in favor of President Barack Obama's climate change bill.

Kirk's move makes McKenna the almost certain Republican nominee against either state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias or Merchandise Mart CEO Chris Kennedy next fall.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 10, 2009; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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If you're a Republican looking to run statewide in a very blue state, you vote for things like the Cap and Trade legislation.

What you don't do, is give conflicting signals about whether you're going to run or not. It looks indecisive, which voters do not like one iota. This is a bad play by Kirk.

Posted by: JayPen | July 12, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

"Then you're a fool. The theory is not in any substantial doubt. The benefits of acting are great, the consequences of inaction are unspeakably grave. Anyone who would counsel inaction should be shunned.

The changes we are seeing are even worse than the worst predictions of the global warming model. Grow the hell up and learn some science."

Chris has drunk the Gore Koolaid. Try the Heritage Institute or the 30,000 scientists who have NOT joined the alarmist hysteria about the threat (?) of global climate change (cooling the past 10 years)

His "one pro environment vote" was one of 8 such that may inflict massive economic damage; unless the Senate blocks it.

The conservatives do not need another Collins, Snowe or Specter.

PS Could care less about his orientation...a non factor. We all could "grow the hell up"
Over and out

Posted by: clfgef | July 11, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse


I agree with you entirely, but the world isn't as it should be, but as it is.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 11, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

To meepster:

Although I haven't got a horse in this race, it's my understanding that Peter Fitzgerald not only 'bought' his Senate seat, but had an extraordinarily undistinguised record while he was in the Senate.

Kirk seems MUCH better and more moderate. If the gay-rumours do surface, though, it's not going to help him. Not because they might (or might NOT) be true, but because of the hypocrisy--currently very much in the spotlight among Republican candidates.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 11, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I am a speedreading skeptic as well as a global warming (now "climate change")unconvinced (skeptic).


Then you're a fool. The theory is not in any substantial doubt. The benefits of acting are great, the consequences of inaction are unspeakably grave. Anyone who would counsel inaction should be shunned.

The changes we are seeing are even worse than the worst predictions of the global warming model. Grow the hell up and learn some science.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 11, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Believe Kirk is one of the 8 R's who flinched at Pelosi, and voted for the Cap and Tax scam...he also claimed to have read the entire bill (? the initial 1000+ pages, or also the 300 page amendment dumped at 3:00am). I am a speedreading skeptic as well as a global warming (now "climate change")unconvinced (skeptic).
Not sure he is not another Arlen Specter. We don't need that.

Posted by: clfgef | July 11, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The 11:51 post is absurd. As a Tenth Congressional District Democrats leader who has dealt for YEARS with Democrats and Republicans who believe that Mark Kirk should be "outed" (and some have actually become quite angry over the years that we locals Democrats simply won't do it) I take exception to a statement that any Tenth Dem leader is spreading rumors about Mark Kirk. How dare you say that? It's absurd, offensive, and untrue. 1) We don't have ANY such knowledge, 2) An elected official's sexual orientation is simply not our business or yours, and 3) it's not likely to harm his campaign in any way. In fact, it more likely would elicit support from some arenas. Why the hell would local Dems keep that "secret" for all those years when one of the groups' main goals ALL THOSE YEARS was to defeat Mark Kirk, if they believed the rumors would hurt him, only to suddenly pass rumors on when he considers running for the Senate, finally getting him out of the 10th District seat? It makes absolutely no sense. It is not true. But more importantly, it's unfair and clearly written by someone with a vendetta against local Democrats. How dare you make such a comment? No question we want to see him defeated. And you've seen and will see lots from us about his voting record. But we sure aren't spreading these rumors, and the 1:51 poster certainly knows that.

Posted by: CommunityOrganizer | July 11, 2009 3:25 AM | Report abuse

I live in the 10th and I've heard the gay rumor but it's just some bogus slander circulated by Ringleader Ellen Beth Gash and the 10th District Democrats.

Andy McKenna is just a joke in Illinois politics. He was TERRIBLE at capitalizing on anger from the Burris appt. and the budget circus going on in Springfield between Cullerton, Madigan, and Quinn and translating that into Republican support. Most of the GOP opposition on both those matters came from House Minority Leader Tom Cross (and sometimes Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.) What a wimp. He's terrible at public speaking as well. I will be terribly disappointed at the Illinois GOP if they put out a candidate like him in such a great opportunity for us to snatch the Senate seat since Peter Fitzgerald.

Posted by: meepster | July 11, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

It just seems so crude and backward that anyone would give a crap that someone else is gay. What a nation of busybodies and scolds we've turned into

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 11, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

"Anyway, the scuttlebutt is that Kirk is gay and married a few years ago "beard". Supposedly they don't live together."

Uh, the reason that Kirk and his wife don't live together is that they are DIVORCED.

Posted by: disputo | July 10, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

The Post wants to dis any Pub candidate anywhere so: I want some winners against the socialist pacifists that the Dems keep putting up for consideration. Is the guy a conservative? If so, get in the race, whatever issues may go south on you. Can Kirk win the seat? If he can, win it against this horrid bunch of anti-American Dems that are ruining the economy and collapsing our national defenses. For Pete's sake, Pubs, unite and throw off these Quislings and stop quibbling over an issue or two.

Posted by: phillyfanatic | July 10, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Why are there gay rumors about Kirk?
I am gay and he has NEVER been the subject of gay rumors in the gay press.
"Lindsay" Graham yes.
Kirk. No.

Posted by: bobnsri | July 10, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh who cares what the GOP does. They are just a regional party with no power and no chance.

Posted by: bobnsri | July 10, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Crikey! The candidates from BOTH Florida and Ilinois are gay??? And both Republican? If this is true, and if Kirk flip-flops again and does wind up running, we're in for a fascinating election.

This is all because the national electorate is so ridiculously homophobic and infantile--particularly, but not exclusively--on the Right ('Will no one rid me of these meddlesome Evangelicals'?). If they thought this through, they could make this a non-issue...but of course they won't.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 10, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

beard (beerd) n.

A person of the opposite sex (2) posing as or acting as the significant other of somebody who is gay.
"Hey, I ran into my old high school beard the other day."

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 10, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

sorry to be a dope: "beard"?

Posted by: shrink2 | July 10, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I used to live in IL-10 (Kirk's district) and worked for his Democratic opponent in 2006 and 2008. His district is a moderate one that has been trending Democratic and in fact, went for Obama in 2008.

Anyway, the scuttlebutt is that Kirk is gay and married a few years ago "beard". Supposedly they don't live together. It's sort of widely known but not spoken about in the district. I have a feeling that if the state Repubs aren't backing him, then it might have to do with some nasty secrets that may come out.

Posted by: phoebes1 | July 10, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

From Roll Call:

"Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is still considering running for Senate, despite a report Friday afternoon that said he was taking himself out of the race in order to avoid a primary with state Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna.

Kirk told Roll Call over the phone Friday that he was still discussing the race with McKenna going into the weekend and that a published Washington Post report that he was dropping out of the race was incorrect.

Kirk and McKenna met with the Illinois delegation this week to gauge support for their campaigns. At the time, it was unclear who the delegation would back — in part because of Kirk’s vote for the controversial cap-and-trade bill that passed the House recently.

Kirk told Roll Call that he and McKenna would continue to discuss the race over the weekend."

Posted by: mnteng | July 10, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

mnteng writes
"Maybe McKenna is twisting their arms in true Chicago-style politics form?"

I don't know jack about IL politics, but that's what I'm wondering too: does the state party chairman exert significant influence over the caucus due to role in fundraising and/or encouraging & discouraging primary challengers?

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 10, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

In thinking about it further, it seems very strange that none of the IL GOP delegation would back a Kirk Senate bid. Though there are some pretty conservative IL, Biggert and Johnson are fairly moderate, just like Kirk. I can't believe that one pro-environment vote would change their minds.

Maybe McKenna is twisting their arms in true Chicago-style politics form?

Posted by: mnteng | July 10, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Wait, why is there no source cited? What is the source? Staffers? People close to the candidate? Kirk on background?

This sounds like just a leak to make Cornyn sweeten the deal.

Posted by: kuzmatt9 | July 10, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Either he has an IQ >70 or he has a scandal cooking on the back burner.

On thing that has emerged over the last few years is that there are no more secrets; one of my favorite lines from Dr. Zhivago, "The personal life is dead."

Who knew that the secret life of the individual would be killed not by "Big Brother" government (sorry Scrivener), but by TMZ, by the information age, pop gotcha, Greta whatser name (Scientology!) cults (who was first? I think it was that gauche "reporter" with the big big mustache).

This matters because there are very few people who are experienced and smart who can survive the dredging of their lives.

Posted by: shrink2 | July 10, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

mrogers716 writes
"Something doesn't smell right - the only other IL republican in Congress is Peter Roskam."

IL has 19 seats, of which 7 are held by Repubs. If your comment is based on wikipedia, there is a scrollbar at the bottom that will show you the otherwise hidden Repubs in the IL delegation.

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 10, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

So ChrisFox is a prophet and Cornyn's angle to actually make Rs in the Senate relevant again is thwarted?

Could be.

Geithner says that by 2008 there were OVER $700T IN DERIVATIVES outstanding.

B/c the world's entire productive economy is worth only$50T this is an enormous indictment [IMO] of both the deregulation of securities markets and the generation of worthlessness by greedy financial marketers. The impetus to create a market in beanie babies came from creating a sop for all the excess cash generated by Asian Tiger economics [mercantilism] as practiced by China and others, but this number is so extraordinary and outlandish.

I apologize for the threadjack - this follows a discussion someone called "island1" was attempting on a previous thread.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 10, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse


OT: WHERE is 'Mouthpiece Theatre' for Friday???? Surely you have a plethora of material, haven't you?

I need my MT fix!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 10, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

This is so bizzare and just absurd I won't believe it until I hear it directly from Captain Kirk himself. Is it possible that the GOP in Illinois (and elsewhere) really does want to destroy itself? Do the GOPs envision themselves rising from the ashes, ala the Phoenix, to somehow take control at some time in the near future? They've gotten to be as crazy as that well-known rat who hangs around the little "house out back."

Posted by: taylorb1 | July 10, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Something doesn't smell right - the only other IL republican in Congress is Peter Roskam. Does this mean that Roskam said he wouldn't back him, or that it was a different group of folks who pushed him out?

Posted by: mrogers716 | July 10, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

What? Really? Kirk's pro-environment record should be no surprise to anyone. But the IL GOP won't support him, and thus lose their best chance to take over BHO's old Senate seat, because of that one vote?

Self-immolation, thy name is "IL GOP". Guess we won't be seeing IL on the Senate Line anytime soon.

Posted by: mnteng | July 10, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, I really thought McKenna would bow out to Kirk and give him the R nomination. With Kirk out, Democrats now have a more steady hand to retain this seat.

Posted by: reason5 | July 10, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse


How do you think a McKenna vs. Giannoulias race might come out?

This is turning out to be as fascinating as the PA Sen. Dem. primary with Sestak vs. Specter!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | July 10, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

The purge of sane Republicans continues.

So why does this column keep shilling about a "Republican comeback?" If they're purging people who want to do something about the greatest threat we face, they deserve to stay in the minority, and for their representation to go on shrinking.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | July 10, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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