Zopp: Cook decision not to endorse Duckworth a big victory

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Tammy Duckworth and Andrea Zopp made one of their first pitches to a statewide audience of party faithful today, the day after Cook County leaders decided to endorse neither.

Zopp, former CEO of the Chicago Urban League, said Cook County Democrats' decision not to slate a candidate in the race was a big victory, especially after the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Duckworth, a member of Congress from Hoffman Estates.

Both appeared at Democrats' breakfast before the Illinois State Fair today, as did potential U.S. Senate candidates Richard Boykin, a Cook County commissioner, and state Sen. Napoleon Harris, a former NFL linebacker who says he's in for the race.

Zopp said she's happy Cook County party leaders aren't taking a stand.

"We don't want Washington insiders telling the voters of Cook County in particular who they should choose," Zopp said.

Duckworth said she wasn't disappointed.

"The more Democrats we have in the race talking about all the problems (Republican Sen.) Mark Kirk has, the better," Duckworth said.

Republicans had their day at the fair Wednesday, where top Republicans expressed support for Kirk.

Zopp and Duckworth are seen as the leading Democratic candidates vying for a chance to take on Kirk in 2016 but largely avoided attacking each other during the event packed with party leaders from across Illinois. Zopp used the event to formally announce her candidacy.

"I've been focusing on my strengths," Zopp told reporters.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has backed Duckworth, but the breakfast showed not all have made up their minds.

Secretary of State Jesse White said it was too soon to pick a favorite.

"I think we should wait a little longer, then make a decision," White said.

Duckworth tried to downplay the trial scheduled in southern Illinois next year that concerns two employees from her time leading the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs who complained about her reaction to their ethics complaints.

She said she didn't know if she'll be called to testify.

"It's been thrown out of court several times already," she said. "I really don't know what will happen."

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  U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth said she isn't disappointed Cook County Democrats declined to endorse her for U.S. Senate. Mike Riopell/
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