GOP Clearing Senate Field: McKenna Out If Kirk Runs

Kirk to announce intentions "soon"

By Associated Press and BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 PM CDT
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GOP Clearing Senate Field: McKenna Out If Kirk Runs

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Mark Kirk

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Rep. Mark Kirk still hasn't confirmed whether or not he'll make a run for statewide office.

There was some confusion in the media last week after reports conflicted over Kirk's intentions.  On Monday, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Andrew McKenna, said he would stand down from a potential bid if Kirk runs for the Senate.

McKenna's announcement greatly reduces the chances of a Republican primary battle. 

"As party chairman my goal has been to build party unity," McKenna said. "Mark Kirk and I met last evening as part of an ongoing discussion about the U. S. Senate race. I reassured Mark that if he chooses to be a candidate, I will not oppose him."

Whichever candidate moves forward, the GOP is hoping to launch a strong challenge for the Senate seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris, who announced on Friday he would not run for a full-term.

National Republicans have long seen Kirk as their best recruit for a Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama, though Kirk lost some support over his approval of the president's climate change bill.

Kirk has been slow to make a decision on the Senate run, saying several times that an announcement is eminent but failing to make a concrete statement.

"I appreciate Andy McKenna's willingness to consider being a candidate for the U.S. Senate," Kirk said in a statement. "Andy and I share the common goal of ensuring Illinois has a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate.

"I will make an announcement about seeking statewide office soon." He didn't elaborate.

Democrats have dealt with their own recruiting merri-go-round in the race.

The Republican candidate will likely go against either state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has announced an exploratory committee, or Merchandise Mart CEO Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, next fall.

Cheryle Jackson, the president of the Chicago Urban League, has opened an exploratory committee, as well.

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