In the 2016 Illinois Senate race, incumbent Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Tammy Duckworth are fighting for the seat in the United States Senate. Senator Kirk is a seasoned politician having been a representative of Illinois’ 10th District in the House of Representatives for than ten years before being elected to the US Senate in 2010. Interestingly, he was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve for 23 years. Kirk’s impressive political and military experiences make him a strong candidate. Nothing, however, could have prepared him for a sudden and debilitating stroke in 2012 that forced him to relearn basic tasks (such as walking), yet he continued to serve as one of Illinois’ senators after the ordeal . As a Republican, Senator Kirk supports a strong Nuclear Deal with Iran that would prevent the country from becoming nuclear, yet he is also committed to projects at home, in Illinois, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and repealing the death tax in hopes of keeping the state clean for all and affordable for the backbone of Illinois’ economy: farmers.
Although Senator Kirk has an impressive background, he is facing strong competition from Representative Tammy Duckworth. Like Senator Kirk, Representative Duckworth was a member of the military, yet she was sent to Iraq in 2003. Tragically while serving in Iraq, Duckworth “lost both legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion,” but these injuries have only strengthened her commitment to helping veterans and their families. After the debilitating injuries, Duckworth became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs where she supported projects that fought to “end Veteran homelessness” and “alleviate suffering from Post Traumatic Stress”. Now after serving in the House of Representatives for four years, Duckworth hopes to continue to serve Illinoisans by “advocating for small businesses, investing in infrastructure, improving the lives of [Illinois] veterans and cutting government waste and fraud.”
Although there were primaries held for both the Republican and Democratic nominations, neither Kirk nor Duckworth faced significant opposition. In the March primary, Kirk received 70.6% of the vote while Duckworth still soundly secured the Democratic nomination with 64.4% of the vote. Kirk easily received the nominee as incumbents “almost always win” when challenged in primaries (Herrnson, 53). In addition, Duckworth’s significant political experience perhaps propelled her to solidify the nomination as her closest opponent for the nominee, Andrea Zopp, did not have this political background which is “usually a determining factor” as to who wins primaries (Herrnson, 55). These circumstances probably led the campaign to be shaped the way it is now.
Looking forward at the election in November, the campaign looks to be very competitive. Chicago is a consistently blue state, and many consider Senator Kirk to be “among the nation’s most imperiled Republican incumbents.” Kirk has struggled to maintain his Republican base given his difficulty being connected with a party that is currently led by Donald Trump in the Presidential race, and he faces continued scrutiny by Republicans for his support of a relatively moderate/liberal agenda. This is reflected in both individuals’ campaign financing where Duckworth has raised $2.4 million more than Kirk has as of June 30. Only time will tell if Kirk will be able to fend off Duckworth to be re-elected to the Senate, but it is certain there will still be a long, expensive, and vicious campaign until the election in November.