Riopell: Kirk says 2016 opponents have 'quite a hill to climb'

Any challengers have 'quite a hill to climb,' GOP senator says

For the first time since he was a member of Congress under House Speaker Dennis Hastert, U.S. Sen Mark Kirk will serve in the majority party when the new term starts next month and Republicans have control of the Senate.

Eyes are already on the 2016 election, though, and Kirk made a confident case for re-election this week amid speculation about which Democrat might challenge him.

"Everybody in business knows, to win a customer over who has already been a customer is pretty easy," Kirk said. "In my case, I'm just asking the people who already voted for me in a majority to re-up."

Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, said any challenger is unlikely to have the same statewide experience he does.

"They've got quite a hill to climb," Kirk said.


If Gov. Pat Quinn or Attorney General Lisa Madigan make a 2016 Senate bid, they would come with statewide election experience. Madigan was just re-elected, and Quinn nearly was.

Suburban Democratic U.S. Reps. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates and Bill Foster of Naperville would go into the race with less recognition, but both likely will at least weigh a run.

Durbin factor

Kirk says he hopes U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin doesn't give much help to a Democratic challenger in 2016.

Kirk mostly stayed out of Durbin's successful re-election bid this year and didn't do much publicly for Republican challenger Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove.

The two have worked together cooperatively, especially since Durbin's office helped Kirk during his recovery from a serious stroke in 2012.

Does Kirk expect Durbin to say out of the 2016 race?

"I would hope so. I would hope that the favor is returned," Kirk said.

Not retiring

Kirk says all questions are fair during an election campaign, and he isn't offended by suggestions he might not go for another term. But he says those suggestions are wrong.

"No frickin' way am I going to retire," he said.

In the majority

Asked what he'd be able to accomplish while in the Senate majority, Kirk pointed to a proposal he's pushed for years that would allow parents to set up tax-deferred accounts for their children.

The kids could one day use that money to pay for college, buy a first house or start a business.

The proposed program is called 401 (Kids) after the popular type of retirement account. This way, he said, parents could get tax-deferred contributions for their kids, who could watch that wealth grow as they get older.

"So you can run your family on guilt like my family is run," Kirk said.

He even said contribution reminders could even come from Facebook since the social network notifies you of birthdays.


Weeks after being a guest on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," Duckworth came up on the "The Daily Show" this week.

Host Jon Stewart was criticizing a decision by House Democrats to deny Duckworth a chance to vote in their leadership elections because she wasn't there in person.

Duckworth was under doctors' orders to stay put because of her pregnancy. She gave birth to a daughter Tuesday.

Stewart noted Duckworth's status as an Asian-American woman who is a wounded war veteran.

"She is everything you supposedly stand for stuffed into one individual," Stewart said in the rant. "She is a Democratic, demographic turduckworth."

For those not familiar: A turducken is a roasted chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is stuffed inside a turkey.

On-the-job training

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has more suburban officials on his transition team now.

He named Barrington Mayor Karen Darch and West Chicago Mayor Reuben Pineda co-chairs of a committee on local government.

Regional Transportation Authority Chairman and former Rauner primary foe Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale will be on his infrastructure team.

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