When the U.S. Senate rubber-stamped President Obama's new surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, on Monday, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was the only Republican in the chamber to lend his support amid NRA-fueled resistance over Murthy's gun control views.
The self-professed fiscal conservative and social moderate diverted from party lines to install Murthy into the top doctor post by a 51-43 vote. Murthy is the 37-year-old founder of Doctors for America, a coalition of MDs supportive of Obamacare, and an internal medicine physician and teacher at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Vivek's nomination sparked fierce backlash from the National Rifle Association and politicians from both sides of the aisle repping states where there is heavy support for gun rights. The incoming surgeon general, a proponent of stricter gun control laws, stated last February that he would not leverage the position as "a bully pulpit for gun control."
Kirk, up for re-election in 2016, is especially well regarded among Illinoisians surrounding Democratic Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently passed sweeping firearm regulations crafted to marginalize gun shops. Kirk, who previously served the 10th Congressional District on the city's North Shore before jumping to the Senate in 2011, faces a potential (and equally popular) rival in Chicago-area Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat and fellow miltary veteran.
On Monday Kirk officially retired from the Navy after more than 25 years of service including three reserve deployments in Afghanistan. He confirmed he will run to keep his senatorial seat next year and had already raised $400,000 toward that effort.