The Chicago Tribune editorial board on Friday endorsed incumbent Mark Kirk and Rep. Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate.
Kirk won his seat in 2010, beating out Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, Green Party nominee LeAlan Jones and Libertarian Mike Labno. Prior to that, Kirk served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In their endorsement, the Tribune lauded Kirk’s centrist leadership as a senator.
“Kirk's brand of centrist Republicanism worked well for the five terms he served in the U.S. House representing the decidedly purple 10th Congressional District north of Chicago,” the editorial board wrote. “We endorsed Kirk in his first Senate run because of the experience he brought to the table, and the fact that he was no party robot.”
The paper also championed Kirk’s decision to break with Republican senators to support moving forward with hearings to appoint a new Supreme Court justice under President Barack Obama.
“He is one of the few Senate Republicans willing to give a hearing to whomever President Barack Obama nominates to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat,” the board wrote.
The endorsement applauds Kirk for his independent voting record and his willingness to cast votes that aren’t aligned with his party’s consensus.
“Kirk has joined the Republicans opposing Obamacare, but he's voted with Democrats on other issues, such as protecting funding for Planned Parenthood,” the board wrote. “In December he was the only member of his party to support a failed proposal that would have stopped people on the government's anti-terrorist ‘no fly’ list from buying guns.”
The paper also credits Kirk for his military record and agrees with the senator on his stance on Syrian refugees.
“In the fight against Islamic State, Kirk pushed for a pause in the Syrian refugee program until officials certify the ability to stop terrorists from infiltrating the U.S,” the board wrote. “We agreed with him.”
The editorial board is optimistic about Kirk’s opponent in the Republican primary, James Marter, but ultimately felt he was under-qualified for the role of U.S. senator.
“Marter lacks experience in national and global affairs,” the board wrote. “But he's a thoughtful citizen-candidate running for the right reasons.”
Duckworth, who is a strong front-runner for the Democratic nomination, also received a nod from the Tribune’s editorial board. The board previously endorsed Duckworth’s House campaigns in 2012 and 2014.
Duckworth, a combat veteran who joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1990, lost her leg in 2004 while co-piloting a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq.
She subsequently served as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2009 and later as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the US Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009 to 2011.
During her time in the House of Representatives, Duckworth has been a champion of military causes.
“On Capitol Hill, Duckworth — no surprise — has made military-related issues a focal point of her work,” the board wrote. “When she calls out the Defense Department for wasteful spending, she's got credibility.”
The endorsement also credits Duckworth’s skepticism over a plan by the Obama administration to spend $500 million to train Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS.
“She was skeptical of the vetting procedure and other skimpy details of the program, and voted against a House measure that passed,” the board wrote. “Her skepticism was warranted: This was the failed program that trained no more than a handful of fighters.”
The endorsement does fault Duckworth for supporting the government continuing to spend beyond its means.
“Despite the nation's $19 trillion debt, Duckworth wants to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from reforms; she says she is ‘open to the possibility’ of having high wage earners pay more into Social Security,” the board wrote. “That would generate revenue but not address the extraordinary cost of maintaining entitlements.”
The endorsement also notes that her primary opponent, Andrea Zoop, has “serious public policy chops” and that she has a “killer resume.”
The paper claims her other opponent, former NFL star and state Sen. Napoleon Harris, “might qualify for a promotion some day, but right now he should focus on his current constituents and their considerable needs.”
Duckworth, Zopp and Harris will face off in the March 15 Democratic primary.
Kirk and Marter will face off in the March 15 Republican Primary.