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Sen. Mark Kirk Fights to Save Senate Seat

Image: Sen. Mark Kirk Fights to Save Senate Seat
Sen. Mark Kirk (Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 14 Apr 2016 02:32 PM

Illinois' endangered GOP senator is sounding increasingly more Democrat as he fights to save his seat in his deep-blue state — but insists it's just "Mark Kirk being Mark Kirk."

Kirk is one of two Senate Republican Conference members in favor of a hearing on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick — the other is Maine Sen. Susan Collins — even scolding party colleagues to "man up" and vote on the nominee.

But it's not the only issue that's putting distance between him and the rest of the party, Politico reports.

Others include:
  • His sponsorship of a criminal justice reform bill to loosen some mandatory minimum sentences, despite GOP complaints it would risk the release of violent criminals;
  • His cooperation with liberal senators to urge the National Basketball Association to move its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, N.C. to protest the state's law banning anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
"For me, it's just Mark Kirk being Mark Kirk, because I was always very independent of my party in the House, as well as in the Senate," he tells Politico. "I think for Illinois, they want a thoughtful, independent voice and not just a party Xerox."

"On choice, I'm different than the party," he adds. "On gay rights, I'm different than the party. … From the first day I decided to run for the Congress, I endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. So it's as old as I am in politics."

One GOP strategist tells Politico the senator is "doing exactly what he needs to be doing to solidify his independent brand in a heavily Democratic state."

Kirk consistently ranks as either the most or second-most vulnerable GOP senator, along with Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Politico reports. The GOP is defending 24 congressional seats this November.

According to Politico, Kirk's campaign has released internal polling showing him losing to Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth, 43-40, within the margin of error.

Fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said "people have noticed" Kirk's stance on the Supreme Court, adding most voters back home agree with him.

"When he breaks from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, it helps him," Durbin tells Politico. "At the end of the day, though, he has chosen Mitch to be his leader."

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Illinois' endangered GOP senator is sounding increasingly more Democrat as he fights to save his seat in his deep-blue state — but insists it's just "Mark Kirk being Mark Kirk."
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Thursday, 14 Apr 2016 02:32 PM
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