IL-Sen: McKenna Clears Way for Kirk
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna said today that he will step aside if Rep. Mark Kirk runs for the Senate, clearing the way for Congressman to claim the GOP nomination.
"As party chairman my goal has been to build party unity," said McKenna in a statement. McKenna added that he and Kirk had met Sunday night and that "I reassured Mark that if he chooses to be a candidate, I will not oppose him."
The McKenna statement ends a weekend of raw politics in which state and national Republicans sought to push him out of the contest in favor of Kirk who they believe is the stronger general election candidate.
Kirk, who decided not to run on Friday and informed several Republican operatives of his decision before reconsidering, is also likely to win the unanimous endorsement of the Illinois congressional delegation, according to a source close to Kirk. Kirk is not expected to formally enter the race until later this week or even early next week.
While the manner in which Kirk got into the race isn't ideal, national Republican recruiters have to be ecstatic at the way things shook out over the weekend.
Kirk is a proven vote-getter in a Democratic-leaning House district and a strong fundraiser -- he showed more than $1 million on hand at the end of June.
That combination makes his candidacy a major recruiting success for national Republicans who can now count Illinois as one of the places -- along with Colorado, Connecticut and, maybe, Nevada and Pennsylvania -- where they plan to play offense in the 2010 election cycle.
The next domino to fall will be in Delaware where national Republicans have grown increasingly confident that Rep. Mike Castle (R) will make a run for the seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden's son, Beau, the state's attorney general, is expected to be the Democratic nominee.
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