On Nov. 2, 2010, Republican Mark Kirk was declared the winner of President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Kirk narrowly defeated Illinois treasurer Alexi Giannoulias 48 percent to 46 percent in a Republican wave year, joining five other freshmen Republicans in the Senate. This November, Kirk faces yet another tight competition against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Kirk was born and raised in Illinois, serving in the Navy Reserve from 1989 until his retirement in 2013. He attended Cornell and Georgetown Universities, graduating with degrees in history and law. In professional life, he worked as a lawyer for the World Bank, the State Department, and the House of Representatives International Relations Committee. In 2000, Kirk was elected to the House of Representatives from Illinois’ swing 10th congressional district, anchored by the north suburbs along the lakefront. Kirk represented his moderate district well, taking more conservative stances on fiscal issues and national defense and liberal stances on social issues. He was subsequently reelected to five terms in the House by increasing margins until he opted to retire from his seat to run for the open Senate seat vacated by Roland Burris, appointed to replace President Obama.
After his narrow win in the extremely competitive toss-up race, Kirk went to work for Illinois. His moderate positions on many issues have led Kirk to regularly break with Republican colleagues on key votes, and have earned him the rank of third most bipartisan senator from the Lugar Center. Recently, Kirk has sponsored legislation to require the SEC to refund excess payments, affirm support for bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and to ensure timely burial for deceased veterans. Kirk has ongoing initiatives to support U.S. veterans, fight gangs, end child trafficking, and increase heroin awareness, among other items. Currently, Kirk serves on the Appropriations, Banking, HELP, and Aging committees.
Kirk has been a positive influence on the Senate, maintaining the candy desk and serving as an independent voice for Illinois. The candy desk is a Senate tradition where one Senator fills it with confections for other Senators. Kirk assumed the role in 2011, stocking it with Illinois candy such as Mars, Milky Way, Jelly Belly, and Snickers. His bipartisanship has also led to great relationships with other Senators and a better chance to pass legislation that would benefit Illinois.
Kirk is predicted by election analysists to lose reelection, but polls remain inconclusive. The Real Clear Politics average has Kirk at 36 percent and Duckworth at 43 percent, still leaving 21 percent undecided. Nonetheless, Kirk supporters remain optimistic that his moderate stances will appeal to enough Republicans and independents to swing the election.