Kirk and Duckworth win, go on offense

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth claimed victory in Tuesday's primary and jumped into a tough U.S. Senate race swinging.

Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, defeated state Sen. Napoleon Harris and former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp. Duckworth had 64 percent of the vote, Zopp had 24 percent and Harris had 12 percent.

Kirk, of Highland Park, received 71 percent of the vote compared to Republican rival James Marter with 29 percent. Both tallies reflect preliminary results with 97 percent of votes counted.

Kirk took some early jabs at Duckworth during a victory celebration.

"I'll be fighting for fiscal sanity and lower taxes and a balanced budget, while Tammy Duckworth has voted to increase the size of government and to raise our borrowing," he said.

Duckworth criticized Kirk's support for GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

"Mark Kirk has long embraced Trump's brand of divisive rhetoric and fear mongering, and now he is embracing the man himself. Well, those aren't our values," Duckworth told a cheering crowd.

With a number of U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in the November general election, Illinois could change the political balance of the chamber, political scientist Sharon Alter said.

"Voters will be inundated with campaign literature and television ads," said Alter, a Harper College professor emeritus.

Duckworth, who was wounded and lost both legs while serving in Iraq, is a second-term member of Congress. "I've had the book thrown at me before. I can take it," Duckworth said. "Illinois Democrats are working together to beat Mark Kirk ... and to take back the Senate."

Kirk was a five-term congressman who was in his first Senate term when he suffered a stroke in 2012. "I've been counted out by the pundits and Washington insiders," he said. "Every election, I've beaten the odds and exceeded expectations."

Alter noted that national campaign organizations for the Republicans ran TV ads against Duckworth prior to the primary and likewise the Democrats endorsed Duckworth, a somewhat unusual step, indicating the level of attention the race is receiving.

And if President Obama appoints a U.S. Supreme Court nominee whose confirmation is stalled in the Senate, the Illinois race will take even greater national prominence, Alter said.

At rallies, both candidates drew lines in the sand.

Kirk stressed security, saying "the voters will have a clear knowledge that I am fighting to protect our country from terrorists who are determined to attack and kill Americans, while Tammy Duckworth wants to accept 200,000 unvetted Syrian refugees, which is 10 times the number our president has already called for," he said.

Duckworth dwelt on the economy. "I'll be a senator who supports American manufacturing and workers by pushing for fair trade policies, not one who supports corporations shipping jobs overseas, or avoiding paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. Those policies - Mark Kirk's policies - have left factories idle and dreams destroyed."

At Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington Tuesday morning, voters seemed evenly split.

"I'm voting for Duckworth," said John Anderson, of Hoffman Estates, a Navy veteran. "I like that she formerly was in the military."

Debbie Argianas of South Barrington backed Kirk. "He's done a good job; he's represented us well," she said.

•Daily Herald staff writer Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.

  Tammy Duckworth waves to her supporters after declaring victory in the Democratic Senate primary in Chicago. Mark Welsh/
  Republican Sen. Mark Kirk gives a "thumbs up" as he speaks during his election night party in Chicago. Joe Lewnard/
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