Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk is up for reelection, running against acclaimed veteran Tammy Duckworth. In a desperate effort to retain voters in a solid blue state, the Republican from Champaign, Illinois to looking more and more like a Democrat these days.
Kirk was one of the first (and only) Senate Republicans to disobey the directives of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and meet with SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland. As if the meeting was enough of an affront to GOP opposition, Kirk called out his colleagues afterwards.
“He’s been dually nominated by the elected president of the United States to fill a vacancy which we know exists on the court, and we need open-minded, rational, responsible people to keep an open mind to make sure the process works,” Kirk recently told CNN.
Kirk has consistently been ranked as one of the most bipartisan (read: moderate) Republicans in the Senate. The most recent Lugar survey put him at #3 behind Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Donnell (D-Indiana). While he’s not nearly as far right as many of his contemporaries, it’s hard to imagine Kirk would take such a bold stance if he wasn’t facing such a firm competitor.
And Tammy Duckworth knows how to fight. A former US Army pilot, Duckworth saw combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In fact, in 2004 her Black Hawk was shot down and subsequently she lost both legs and partial use of one arm. Her service earned her The Purple Heart and the respect and admiration of veterans everywhere.
The two-time member of the House has picked up enthusiastic endorsements from Obama and VP Joe Biden.
“I’m proud to support Tammy Duckworth for the seat I once held in the United States Senate,” Obama said. “Few people fight as passionately for our veterans as Tammy.”
The strength of her support among the average voters is showing up in her campaign contributions. She reported raising $2.1 million already in 2016, mostly from small, individual donors. That was nearly a million dollars more than Kirk reported for the same time period.
Many observers and media outlets are calling the Illinois Senate race the one to watch this November. Some have even labeled Kirk as the most “endangered incumbent.”
His strategic move to the left will put the RNC in a difficult position when deciding how much to help Kirk. Will they cut and run, or hold their nose and support a “soft” conservative? With the two top GOP presidential candidates leaning much further to the right, he can’t expect much help from the eventual party nominee.
In what is sure to be a long and tough election fight, Mark Kirk is on his own.
Featured Image by Brian Kersey/Getty Images.