With his campaign flagging less than a week until Election Day, Sen. Mark Kirk is ready to move past the controversy surrounding a racially-charged comment he made at last week’s debate.
“The comment that I made, I apologized to Tammy about and she accepted the apology,” Kirk said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5/Telemundo.
During the debate, Kirk mocked Duckworth’s family history of military service after the congresswoman said her family has “served this nation in uniform going back to the revolution.”
“I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk responded.
The senator, who is considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election, ultimately apologized to Duckworth the following day, expressing “gratitude for her family’s service.”
“With apology offered and accepted, I think Tammy and I think it’s time to move on,” the senator said Wednesday.
The Duckworth campaign confirmed Wednesday that the congresswoman is also ready to put the issue to rest and focus on more substantive issues. Nevertheless, Kirk is struggling to keep up with Duckworth in both polling and fundraising.
According to two polls released this week, the Democrat holds a strong lead in the race. An Emerson College poll shows Kirk trailing by 18 points and a Loras College poll shows the Republican trailing by 8 points.
On Wednesday, the senator claimed he would overcome the deficit by “being the independent voice for Illinois,” noting his F- rating from the National Rifle Association and his commitment to fighting gangs in Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune pointed out Wednesday that Kirk’s campaign coffers have been depleted. Kirk raised less than $300,000 during the first 19 days of October, leaving the Republican with a $576,279 war chest. In comparison, Duckworth raised $860,559 in the same time period and has $2.5 million on hand.
Kirk downplayed how the fundraising gap could affect the last leg of the race.
“A week before the election, you expect each campaign to spend,” Kirk said. “I would expect my opponent would be slowly running down. When you’re six days out, to talk to 12.8 million people, the campaign is basically cooked right now.”
The senator also took some shots at Duckworth, referring to the congresswoman as a “terrible public servant” for her work as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Kirk’s campaign has used four IDVA whistleblowers in anti-Duckworth ads. He even had the women accompany him to last week’s debate.
Kirk also criticized the Duckworth for being rated “one of the least effective members of Congress."
“You’ve got a lot of competition in that area,” the senator joked. “It’s hard to win that battle.”
In response, the Duckworth campaign criticized the InsideGov study Kirk was seemingly referrencing. PolitiFact has given "False" and "Mostly False" ratings to political attacks based on the study due to its questionable methodology.
"Senator Kirk is in the predicament he's in at least in part because he has run an unrelentingly negative campaign based on false attacks that Illinois voters are rejecting," Duckworth campaign spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement. "Why he continues to peddle these falsehoods is anyone's guess, but it's unfortunate and beneath the dignity of the office he holds."
"Tammy is committed to closing out this campaign by continuing to have an honest and positive conversation with Illinois voters about the issues they care about, not trading insults."