Race between Duckworth, Kirk key to determining Senate control

Freshman Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth are squaring off a nationally watched race that will help decide which political party has control of the U.S. Senate come January.

Kirk, a moderate from Highland Park, was elected to a six-year term in 2010 after serving five terms as a congressman for the north suburban 10th District.

He bills himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate supporting abortion rights and climate change legislation and broke ranks with fellow Republicans to meet with President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a graduate of Niles West High School in Skokie.

Kirk also has been outspoken in his opposition to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and says he won't vote for the business tycoon and instead plans to write in the name of Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA.

Following recent revelations of a recorded conversation where Trump bragged about groping and trying to have sex with women, Kirk said on Twitter that Trump was a "malignant clown - unprepared and unfit to be president of the United States."

Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is serving her second term representing the 8th Congressional District.

She has placed a focus on small business issues and has highlighted her cosponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides federal funding for both the prosecution and investigation of crimes against women.

She says a polarized political climate can be eased by improving the economy locally.

"Some of the core issues that are bringing the 'mad as hell' emotion up is people hear that the economy is improving but they don't see it in their hometowns," Duckworth told the Daily Herald editorial board.

Kirk, a lawyer who returned to Congress after having a stroke in 2012, retired in 2013 as a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq, retired in 2014 from the Illinois Army National Guard.

Kirk has accused Duckworth, former assistant secretary in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and former head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, of "putting political ambition before veterans" in a recent commercial.

Duckworth has attacked Kirk for past exaggerations of his military record.

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