A decision by U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth to run for U.S. Senate would vacate her suburban seat in Congress in 2016, sparking what's likely to be a long, hard look at the seat by candidates of both parties.
Seats without incumbents can be some of the most competitive, and Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron Del Mar said Monday it's possible Marine Corps veteran Larry Kaifesh would consider a repeat run in the 8th Congressional District next year after losing to Duckworth last year. Kaifesh said it'll be up to the voters.
"I will not force myself into the race," Kaifesh said. "If the (8th District) constituents want an honest leader, selfless servant and someone who is committed to improving the quality of life of the constituents, standing of the country and integrity of the Constitution, and they provide legitimate support, I will consider running."
On the Democratic side, several potential candidates said Monday they're exploring bids, with more possibly on the way.
Businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Hoffman Estates lost to Duckworth in the 2012 primary for Congress and said he'll make an announcement "shortly" on whether he'll run again.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a freshman state lawmaker from Villa Park, says he'll take a look, too.
"We're definitely still in the exploratory phase," he said.
And state Sen. Mike Noland of Elgin says he's "seriously exploring" a run. There are still months for candidates to either emerge or drop out.
Duckworth announced her 2016 campaign for Senate via YouTube video Monday, starting what could be one of the toughest campaigns in the country next year in both the primary and November elections.
The sophomore lawmaker's video focused in part on how she lost her legs in an attack on her helicopter in Iraq.
"That has allowed me to speak up without fear," she said.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, is serving in his first term in the Senate after five terms in the House from the North suburban 10th Congressional District.
The GOP quickly responded to Duckworth's announcement, pointing to her appointment as the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate," Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville is among the Democrats who have also expressed an interest in a 2016 run for Senate, creating a possible primary between two suburban Democrats vying to face Kirk.
"Senator Kirk looks forward to a conversation on the issues that matter most to voters across the state including his proven record of thoughtful, independent leadership, and his work each and every day to serve Illinois families," Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement.
The 2016 race for Senate in Illinois has been called one of the top campaigns in the country.