Sen. Mark Kirk will run for re-election in 2016, according to outgoing Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady. In an interview with Chicago magazine’s Carol Felsenthal, Brady was asked (indirectly) about Kirk’s support for gay marriage and (directly) about his electoral future.
CF: Has Mark Kirk become more liberal since his stroke?
PB: I don’t think so. He’s always been policy-wise a strong fiscal conservative, foreign policy hawk. Having gone through what he went through he’s certainly now more introspective. There’s no person for whom I have greater respect than Mark Kirk; he’s inspirational, a great leader.
CF: Is he running again in 2016?
PB: Yes. We are already planning fundraisers. He’s running.
One of Kirk’s colleagues, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, suffered a stroke in 2006 that kept him away from the Senate for nearly a year. In 2008, Johnson was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote. He is not seeking a third term next year.
Kirk represents the most Democratic state of any Republican senator. He won election in 2010, a very big year for the Republican Party, with only 48 percent of the vote. Next time, he’ll be running in a presidential year. Illinois’s favorite son Barack Obama won’t be on the ballot. But there’s a good chance that Hillary Clinton, who was born and raised in Illinois, will be. Kirk won points with the state’s liberal voters for his support of gay marriage, but he’s going to need all the money and vigor he can muster to win re-election. All the party unity, too.