Scalia opening creates campaign fireworks here
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Monday tried to sting Republicans in the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said the debate taking place was "unseemly."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said a Scalia replacement appointed by President Barack Obama won't be considered, and Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, didn't say in a brief prepared statement Monday whether he agreed with that position.
"The political debate erupting about prospective nominees to fill the vacancy is unseemly; let us take the time to honor his life before the inevitable debate erupts," Kirk said.
Kirk faces Oswego Republican James Marter in the March 15 primary, and Marter didn't immediately return a call requesting comment.
Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, got behind Obama.
"For Senate Republicans to reject the idea that the president would have the audacity to do his job for the remainder of his term shows you just how bad things are in this Republican Congress," he said in a prepared statement.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat and candidate to run against Kirk, tried to bring the issue into the campaign, releasing a statement and fundraising email Monday to put pressure on Kirk.
In the statement, she said Kirk "must immediately level with the people of Illinois, and let us know whether he supports the Constitution, or if he'll be a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell's obstructionist and unconstitutional gambit."
Duckworth first has to get through the March primary, where she's opposed by former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp. Zopp said Democrats agree Kirk should consider Obama's appointment, and she touted her legal experience as a former prosecutor and graduate of Harvard law as a reason to elect her to the Senate.
"No one in this primary has experience that comes close," a statement from her campaign manager said.
State Sen. Napoleon Harris, a Harvey Democrat, similarly says he supports Obama.
Duckworth, Zopp and Harris will face each other in their first televised debate Friday.
The debate over Scalia's vacancy has touched off a storm of speculation about who Obama might pick, including a Washington Post report that named Durbin as someone who could be discussed if Obama wants to reach beyond the judiciary for an appointee.
Durbin's spokesman didn't respond directly to the story.