Dem Leading In Key Senate Race

By John Celock

A new poll gives good news for Democrats in their bid to recapture control of the U.S. Senate.

A Public Policy Poll released Wednesday shows U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) leading U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in the competitive race for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. The poll has Duckworth with a 42 percent to 36 percent lead over the first term Kirk. Kirk is struggling following his calling Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, a “bro with no ho.” Kirk has since apologized for the remarks, which were captured on an open microphone during a Senate committee meeting.

The poll indicated that Kirk’s disapproval rating in Illinois has gone up from 32 percent in February to 42 percent in July. His approval rating also dropped from 28 percent in February to 25 percent in the new poll. Duckworth, a top recruit for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, was an unfamiliar name to 42 percent of those polled. Duckworth did retain a large lead over her Democratic primary opponent, Chicago school board member Andrea Zopp, in the poll.

The Illinois Senate race is one of the most competitive in the country as Democrats seek to reclaim President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs and received wounds to her right arm, was considered the Democrats top recruit to oppose Kirk. Kirk, a former congressman, won the seat in 2010 defeating then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) by two percent. Kirk suffered a stroke in 2012 that left him in rehabilitation for a year before returning to the Senate.

On Tuesday, Illinois GOP businessman and donor Rod Gidwitz called on Kirk to drop his bid for a second term, saying that Kirk would not win and could hurt down ballot GOP candidates in the state. On Wednesday he said he was having “second thoughts” about the comments.

Kirk’s comments about Graham came in June when he was caught on an open microphone during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting making the comment about the unmarried Graham.

“I’ve been joking with Lindsey, Kirk was heard saying to another senator. “Did you see that? He’s going to have a rotating first lady. He’s a bro with no ho.”

Kirk has since apologized for his comment about Graham.

Duckworth first rose to political prominence with her competitive but unsuccessful 2006 race for Congress. She went on to serve as Illinois veterans affairs director in the cabinets of former Govs. Rod Blagojevich (D) and Pat Quinn (D) before being tapped in 2009 by Obama to become assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She held the federal veterans post until 2011 when she stepped down to run successfully for Congress in 2012. She is the first disabled woman elected to Congress.

Kirk’s seat has consistently flipped between parties over the last two decades. In 1992, Democrat Carol Mosley-Braun unseated Sen. Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary in her bid to become the nation’s first African-American woman senator. Mosley-Braun was defeated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald in 1998.

Fitzgerald did not seek a second term in 2004 paving the way for Obama to capture the seat. After Obama stepped down to become president, Blagojevich tapped Democrat Roland Burris to hold the seat until the 2010 election, when Kirk won the seat.