Rep. Mark Kirk (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Sept. 15, 1959, Champaign .
Home: Highland Park.
Education: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1977-78, Cornell U., B.A. 1981, London Sch. of Econ., M.Sc. 1982; Georgetown U., J.D. 1992.
Military career: U.S. Naval Reserve, 1989-present.
Professional Career: Parliamentary aide, British House of Commons, 1981-83; A.A., U.S. Rep. John E. Porter, 1984-89; Staffer, World Bank, 1990-91; Spec. asst., U.S. Dept. of State, 1991-93; Practicing atty., 1993-95; Counsel, U.S. House Cmte. on Intl. Relations, 1995-2000.
The congressman from the 10th District is Mark Kirk, a Republican first elected in 2000. Kirk was born in downstate Illinois but grew up mostly in tony Kenilworth, on the lake between Wilmette and Winnetka. The son of a telephone company executive, he graduated from Cornell University and the London School of Economics. He got a job in Republican Rep. John Porter’s Washington office and rose to chief of staff in three years. Kirk left Capitol Hill in 1989 but stayed in Washington, doing stints first at the World Bank and then as a State Department aide working on the Central American peace process. Meanwhile, he worked toward a law degree from Georgetown University. After two years of international-law practice, he served five years as counsel to the House International Relations Committee. He is also a commander in the Naval Reserves, and has done tours of duty in Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Panama. In flights during the Gulf War, he was a frequent target of Iraqi guns. Kirk continues to work one weekend each month at the Pentagon’s “war room,” monitoring intelligence reports.
|Mark Kirk (R)||153,082||(53%)||($5,449,409)|
|Daniel Seals (D)||138,176||(47%)||($3,566,123)|
|Mark Kirk (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (53%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (51%)
In 1999, when Porter announced his retirement, Kirk returned home to the 10th District, where he was one of 11 competitors in the Republican primary. This contest included six millionaires who spent nearly $4 million of their own money. Kirk did not spend nearly as much, but he had great advantages: the endorsement of the popular Porter, his positioning as the only candidate with moderate views on cultural issues, and his greater experience in government. He won the primary with 31%, ahead of Shawn Margaret Donnelley, the R.R. Donnelley & Sons printing company heiress, who got 15%, and Northbrook Mayor Mark Damisch, who got 14%. Democrats nominated state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash. Kirk and Gash campaigned as candidates in the Porter mold, promising to carry on his fiscally conservative, culturally moderate record. Gash tried to downplay Kirk’s years in Washington, touting her own legislative experience while talking about the need for action on Social Security solvency and affordable prescription drugs. But Kirk won 51%-49%.
In the House, Kirk has compiled a centrist voting record that is a bit more liberal on social issues and conservative on foreign policy. His familiarity with the workings of the House and a helpful friendship with former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois enabled him to get a seat on the Appropriations Committee. Kirk joined forces with other Republican moderates and deficit hawks in 2004 to try to curb federal spending; the House passed his amendment that requires the Congressional Budget Office to publish an annual report that compares projected annual spending for entitlement programs to the actual spending in the preceding year. He fought to eliminate funding for wasteful earmarks, the individual spending items that lawmakers often tuck into spending bills. Kirk also joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on a proposal to close a loophole that permits gun dealers to sell off their inventory without background checks of their customers. With other House GOP moderates in 2005, he successfully demanded a House vote on legislation to promote embryonic-stem-cell research as a condition for his support of that year’s budget resolution.
Citing intelligence failures in Iraq, the typically well-prepared Kirk pushed for major changes in the structure of the intelligence community. In 2006, he demanded that the Pentagon do more about the opium crisis in Afghanistan and incidences of terrorism fueled by the sale of illegal narcotics. For three weeks in December 2008, he traveled with the Navy in Afghanistan as a special adviser for counternarcotics, making him the first House member since World War II to serve in a combat area. On his return, he called for more troops in Afghanistan to stabilize the region, and said that President Obama should spray the poppies there to curtail opium production.
On issues of parochial importance, Kirk teamed with Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to get the House Appropriations Committee to end subsidized loans for storage by sugar processing companies. Chicago-area candy producers have complained that high sugar prices forced them to cut thousands of jobs. The Kirk-Jackson effort failed. He also pushed for expansion of O’Hare International Airport and, after security breaches were discovered at O’Hare in 2007, he sponsored a bill requiring all airport employees in secure areas to be U.S. citizens. Kirk joined with then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., in 2005 on a sweeping bill to clean up Lake Michigan.
Kirk has had two serious challenges to his re-election from Dan Seals, a marketing specialist who built well-financed grassroots campaigns. While largely maintaining his support for the war in Iraq, Kirk distanced himself from President Bush. In 2006, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, then headed by Emanuel, did some last-minute spending for Seals, including a mailing in which Bush had his arm around Kirk. But it wasn’t enough. Kirk won 53%-47%. He took 51% of the vote in Lake County and 55% in Cook, which cast 57% of the total vote.
Seals ran again in 2008. In a tough year for Republicans, especially Republicans from the home state of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, Kirk kept his distance from the national GOP, and slammed John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate by saying he would not have chosen her. Seals got early support from the DCCC, which ran ads depicting Kirk as a “rubber stamp” for Bush. Kirk cited his independence and campaigned more aggressively this time, calling Seals a carpetbagger without a steady job. He raised $5.4 million to Seals’s $3.5 million, and won convincingly, 53% to 47%. Seals won Lake County by 1,600 votes, but Kirk won the Cook suburbs with 55%.
Some Republicans wanted Kirk to run against Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin in 2008. He took a pass then, but announced in July 2009 that he would run for the Republican nomination for Obama’s old Senate seat, currently held by Democrat Roland Burris, in the November 2010 election.