Sen. Mark Kirk campaigned with Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Chicago Thursday, attending a big-ticket luncheon and touring a downtown tech incubator.
During their visit to Bunker Labs, an incubator for veteran tech entrepreneurs housed within the 1871 hub, Kasich gave a resounding endorsement of Kirk.
“Senator Kirk is unique in the U.S. Senate, he’s very much an independent voice,” Kasich said. “We need people like Mark Kirk.”
“I admire and respect him,” he added.
Kasich praised Kirk’s recovery from a 2012 stroke and lauded the senator’s “independent” voice.
"What do you think is going to frighten him,” Kasich asked. "Who do you think is going to bully him? Nobody.”
The Ohio governor, who dropped out of the presidential race in May, claimed that the Republican party is “in a transition.”
“We don’t know what’s going to happen if Mr. Trump wins,” he said.
Both Kasich and Kirk have announced that they aren’t backing Trump’s presidential candidacy. Nevertheless, Kirk said that Trump shouldn’t be replaced on the Republican ticket Thursday.
During his speech, Kasich noted that there are problems with the country's welfare and tax systems and claimed that “job training functions don’t function at all.”
“So many things need to be fixed,” Kasich said.
Kirk, who called Kasich his “hero” during the event, is locked in one of the nation’s most hotly-contested Senate races with Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Kasich referred to Duckworth as an “old-fashioned liberal” Thursday.
The Democratic Party of Illinois hosted a press call with Illinois labor leaders Thursday to discuss Kirk and Kasich’s “history of attacking working families and supporting job-killing trade deals.”
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney drew parallels between Kasich and Gov. Bruce Rauner, claiming that both executives have worked to weaken unions and their collective bargaining rights.
"It makes sense that a career politician with a history of attacking and insulting working people would be in Illinois today campaigning alongside Mark Kirk,” Devaney said. "Kirk proudly supports Bruce Rauner’s efforts to attack unions and has called them good for his reelection campaign.”
SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Keith Kelleher echoed Devaney’s sentiments, calling Kirk and Kasich "Republicans who are terrible for working people.” Kelleher claimed that both Republicans have opposed pay equity and raising the minimum wage and supported “job-killing, bad trade deals,” like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"Duckworth is desperate to shift the discussion away from the fact that a violent felon was allowed to care for veterans under her watch and that instead of taking corrective action, she punished the whistleblowers who brought it to her attention," Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement.
The senator’s campaign is pointing to an incident wherein five individuals were hired to work at the Anna Veterans Home while Duckworth was serving as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007. One of the individuals, Jessie Bell, was a convicted felon who is currently serving time at Illinois’ Pinckneyville Correctional Center for second degree murder.
A plaintiff in Duckworth’s workplace retaliation suit, which was recently removed from the trial docket, wrote an e-mail to Duckworth about the incident, claiming that the individuals became abusive to a veteran and a contractor the day after being brought on. After becoming loud and disruptive, the individuals were ultimately required to leave the facility.
A Democratic insider claimed the congresswoman wasn’t informed about the incident until after the fact and admonished Christine Simms, the home’s acting administrator and Duckworth’s co-defendant in the suit.
Meanwhile, Duckworth supporter and Iraq War Veteran Dan Tobon claimed Kirk is exaggerating his military service by displaying a bumper sticker on his car saying he served in Afghanistan. Tobon holds that Kirk was only there for training.
The Kirk campaign told NBC Chicago that the senator served three times in Afghanistan as a Naval Reserve Officer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.