4 House Dems Angling to Take on Mark Kirk - NBC Chicago
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4 House Dems Angling to Take on Mark Kirk

Sizing Up Illinois’ Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate



    4 House Dems Angling to Take on Mark Kirk

    They're not quite out of the starting gates but - they’re thinking about it.

    Four Illinois House Democrats are scouting out their chances to best Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016, a presidential year, according to reports from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times

    Kirk, meanwhile, told the Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet he was amused by what he sees as Democratic lawmakers “falling all over themselves” to compete against him.

    But Kirk may not be laughing long if they unite behind a strong candidate and avoid a costly primary in the months ahead. And at this point, that would seem more likely than all these members jumping into a primary together.

    Here’s an early snapshot on the four Dems currently weighing a bid for U.S. Senate:

    U.S. Rep Tammy Duckworth

    A newly-minted mother and wounded Iraq war vet who lost both legs in combat, Tammy Duckworth has a compelling story to tell. She’s also got superstar status among the political elite (count President Obama in her fan club) and was the only Illinois House member to nab a primetime speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

    Duckworth, however, has never competed in a statewide campaign, where the stakes are higher, the attacks sharper and the media much more aggressive.

    Is she ready to give up her seat in the House and go on the road for the next year and a half?

    U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly

    Experience matters. And as the only one of these four who has run statewide before (she ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer against Dan Rutherford in 2010), Robin Kelly may be the best prepared of her colleagues for what lies ahead in this race.

    Armed with a great ballot name and $2 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC, Kelly handily won a seat in Congress in 2013. But, as was pointed out, she’s only been there for less than two years. And while her steady opposition to the gun lobby has won hearts in her Chicago base, that won’t play well downstate.

    If Bloomberg’s major financial support continues and helps bankroll a Senate run, Kelly could be a serious threat.

    U.S. Rep. Bill Foster

    Then there’s the smart and accomplished Bill Foster, a policy wonk if there ever was one. Showing he’s pretty serious about pursuing a bid, the former physicist recently did an exclusive interview with NBC5’s Carol Marin explaining his side of divorce allegations from nearly 20 years ago, a strategic effort to clear the air before any rumors resurface.

    But Foster’s greater political challenge will be building excitement about his candidacy in what could very well end up being the “year of the woman,” with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

    U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos

    As reported by the Trib, Cheri Bustos - given her outside-Chicago base - may have a tough time against Kirk.

    But for what the energetic alderman-turned-congresswoman from East Moline lacks in Chicago-area name recognition, she could make up for in the charisma department. Bustos’ enthusiastic personality will come in handy on the campaign trail.

    Bustos also remains popular with labor unions, a key Democratic constituency. But can she raise the money necessary and build support in the Chicago media market while avoiding self-inflicted wounds like last year’s kerfuffle on not following through on a promised pay cut?

    We’ll have to wait and see.

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