Help for Kirk growing on both sides of the aisle
It was evident by the string of congratulatory Election Night calls he placed to primary victors that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is eager to get back to the business of politics.
A growing list suggests that the Highland Park Republican's peers feel the same way and are doing what they can to bolster the spirits and ease the workload of his office as Kirk recovers from a January stroke and subsequent brain surgery.
How they've helped
A list of politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who have helped out Sen. Mark Kirk and his staff since his stroke in January and subsequent brain surgery.
Official Party How they've helped
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley Chicago Democrat Visited staff
Sen. Dick Durbin Springfield Democrat Visited staff
State Sen. Christine Radogno Lemont Republican Provided lunch for staff
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Riverside Republican Provided lunch for staff
Representative Tom Cross Oswego Republican Sent a letter of support signed by caucus
Congressman Aaron Schock Peoria Republican Visited staff
Congressman Bob Dold Kenilworth Republican Visited staff
Congressman John Shimkus Collinsville Republican Served as honorary chair of Kirk's Energy Advisory Board
Congressman Adam Kinzinger Mateno Republican Speaking engagements
Congressman Randy Hultgren Winfield Republican Speaking engagements
Congressman Bobby Schilling Colona Republican Speaking engagements
Sen. Mitch McConnell Kentucky Republican Visited staff, spoke with Kirk
Sen. Jon Tester Montana Democrat Visited staff
Congressman Charlie Dent Pennsylvania Republican Visited staff
Congresswoman Joanne Emerson Missouri Republican Visited staff
Sen. Tim Johnson South Dakota Democrat Provided food for staff
Sen. Max Baucus Montana Democrat Provided food for staff
House Tuesday Group Provided food for staff
Sen. Harry Reid Nevada Democrat Provided food for staff
Sen. Kay Hagan North Carolina Democrat Provided food for staff
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords staff Arizona Democrat Provided food for staff
Sen. Scott Brown Massachusetts Republican Provided food for staff
Sen. Mark Warner Virginia Democrat Provided food for staff
Sen. Rob Portman Ohio Republican Provided food for staff
This list of "VIPs" — privately kept by Kirk's staff since news of his stroke hit in late January — has grown to include nearly 20 state and congressional officials who have lent a helping hand. Nine are Democrats, from former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to the staff of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Daley stopped by a February retreat to offer words of encouragement to Kirk's staff and remind them that the important work they were doing was even more so as their boss recovered. Republican Congressman John Shimkus, of downstate Collinsville, served as the honorary chair of Kirk's energy advisory board late last week.
Peoria Congressman Aaron Schock stood in for a speaking engagement that Kirk had accepted at the LaSalle County GOP's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
In addition to counseling Kirk's Washington, D.C., staff, Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, has helped advance the junior senator's judicial recommendations as well as several pieces of legislation.
Kirk and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have spoken "at least once" by phone, McConnell's communications director Michael Brumas said last week. During a conversation in mid-March, McConnell relayed that a "true to form" Kirk "was eager to discuss policy and specifically expressed his appreciation for our support in backing his latest initiatives to tighten Iran sanctions. I told him that his colleagues are behind him as he confronts the rigorous physical therapy that he described and we are eager to have him back."
Brumas described the 100-member upper chamber as one with "quite a bit of camaraderie."
He said, "Members are aware if there's an issue with another member. (They) try to help."
Kirk has not yet spoken publicly, and his staff members have largely chosen to release statements on his condition.
In a letter about a recent visit with Kirk, Shimkus described him as "mentally sharp enough to cast knowledgeable votes."
When Shimkus said goodbye, he said, Kirk gave him a strong handshake.
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