Will Republican candidates in Illinois embrace Trump?

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a New York news conference Tuesday after winning the Indiana primary.

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a New York news conference Tuesday after winning the Indiana primary. Associated Press

  • Bob Dold

    Bob Dold

  • Mark Kirk

    Mark Kirk

 
 
Updated 5/4/2016 8:08 PM

With Donald Trump's two biggest rivals gone from the race for president, Illinois Republicans face running on the same ballot as the controversial candidate some of them have praised and some have denounced.

Whether the candidates back presumptive nominee Trump, or how strongly, could affect their own prospects on the November ballot. Some seek to put distance between themselves and his controversial statements, while others say he's the choice of GOP voters and should be supported.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

U.S. Rep. Bob Dold months ago called Trump "disqualified" for the presidency over comments Trump made about U.S. Sen. John McCain's time as a prisoner of war.

"Our country needs more leaders committed to unity, not division," Dold said in a statement Wednesday. "We may not be able to count on that brand of leadership from either of the presumptive 2016 presidential nominees," he said, lumping Trump in with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Dold, a Kenilworth Republican, is running against Democrat Brad Schneider of Deerfield for the third election in a row in what could be one of the nation's biggest congressional races.

Dold said his uncle had spent eight years as a prisoner after being shot down in Vietnam.

Democrats on Tuesday were quick to try to link both Dold and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park to Trump.

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"No matter how much 'tightrope-walking' Bob Dold attempts to pull off, he has nowhere to run to," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Sacha Haworth said.

Dold and Schneider are battling in the North suburban 10th Congressional District, which is seen as leaning Democratic at the top of the ticket. Dold won in 2010 and 2014. Schneider won in 2012 by less than a percentage point.

Meanwhile, Kirk has said in separate interviews he would support Trump as the Republican nominee and hasn't officially endorsed anyone in the primary. He also previously said he will not attend Republicans' summer convention in Cleveland.

Kirk is facing a major statewide re-election effort against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates in which he's sought some political middle ground, including meeting with President Barack Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kirk is seeking re-election to a term he won in 2010, which wasn't a presidential year.

Illinois' top Republicans, Gov. Bruce Rauner and party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett, both have said they'd support Trump if here were the nominee.

Now that Trump's path to the nomination is as clear as ever, his Illinois backers have reason to celebrate.

Trump convention delegate Anthony Anderson was elected from the 11th Congressional District in the West and South suburbs and said excitement around Trump could give Republicans a boost.

"Absolutely, people are more energized," Anderson said.

On the other side is former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles, a vocal Trump critic and convention delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who dropped his campaign Wednesday.

Brady called it "a really bad day for Republicans."

Brady said Dold and Kirk have staked out independent positions that appeal to so-called mainstream Republicans voters who might be turned off by Trump.

"He's just outside the Republican mainstream," Brady said.

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