Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: Nov. 2010, term expires 2016, 1st full term.

Born: September 15, 1959, Champaign, IL

Home: Highland Park, IL

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

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.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: United Church of Christ

Family: Divorced

Moderate Republican Mark Kirk dealt President Barack Obama one of the worst blows of the punishing 2010 election by winning the president’s former Senate seat for the GOP. He suffered a major stroke that limited movement on his body’s left side and was sidelined for most of 2012, but Kirk recovered and returned for the start of the 113th Congress (2013-14).

Kirk was born in downstate Illinois but grew up mostly in Kenilworth, a wealthy suburb north of Chicago, along Lake Michigan. The son of a telephone company executive, he graduated from Cornell University and the London School of Economics and Political Science. He got a job in the Washington office of Rep. John Porter, R-Ill., and rose to chief of staff in three years. Kirk left staff work on 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, while earning a law degree at Georgetown University. After two years of international law practice, he served for five years as counsel to the House International Relations Committee.

In 1999, when Porter announced his retirement, Kirk returned home to the suburban 10th District, where he was one of 11 competitors in the Republican primary. This contest included six multi-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, an R.R. Donnelley & Sons printing company heiress, who got 15%, and suburban 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 touted her legislative experience while talking about the need for action on Social Security solvency and affordable prescription drugs. But Kirk won 51%-49%.

After a few easy elections, Kirk held on by narrower margins in 2006 and 2008 as his centrist district broke strongly toward the Democrats. In those elections, he was twice challenged by Democrat Dan Seals, a marketing specialist who built well-financed grassroots campaigns. In 2006, the war in Iraq was a central issue. Kirk, while largely maintaining his support for the war, distanced himself from President George W. Bush and his handling of the conflict. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 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%.

Seals ran again in 2008, a tough year for Republicans, especially those from the home state of Democratic presidential nominee 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. The DCCC 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’ $3.5 million, and won by the same margin as 2006, 53% to 47%.

In the House, Kirk compiled a centrist voting record that leaned liberal on social issues and conservative on foreign policy. He supported abortion rights, and while he voted in 2009 against ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred homosexuals from serving openly in the military, he was generally supportive of gay rights. He received good marks from environmental groups and teamed with then-Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois in 2005 to push through a sweeping bill to clean up the Great Lakes. He was one of eight Republicans to vote for the Democrats’ 2009 energy bill putting limits on industrial carbon emissions. He supported Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan, but opposed the president’s timetable for withdrawal.

Kirk decided to run for the Senate in 2010, after the seat was vacated by Democrat Roland Burris, who had been appointed by then Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama’s unexpired term after he won the 2008 presidential election. Burris was soon neck-deep in the pay-to-play scandal that ended Blagojevich’s political career. The Democratic governor was impeached by the Illinois General Assembly amid allegations he attempted to profit politically and personally from his power to make the Senate appointment. He was later convicted of lying to federal investigators. In the course of the scandal, Burris conceded to having several conversations with the governor’s associates while the appointment was pending. His reputation badly damaged, Burris decided against seeking election to the seat in 2010.

As a fiscal conservative and foreign policy hawk, Kirk was the only socially moderate Republican with a chance of winning a Senate seat in 2010, the year of the tea party. In the February primary, he did not face a credible challenge from his right and avoided a tough primary challenge. Meanwhile, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias emerged from the Democratic primary bloodied, facing questions about his role in his family bank’s loans to criminals and high-risk decisions that had put the bank in trouble. Federal regulators seized Broadway Bank in April 2010 after it became financially insolvent, and from then on, Giannoulias was unable to escape questions about his role in the bank’s failure. He was a vice president of the bank from 2002 until he ran for state treasurer and won in 2006. Republican dubbed him the “mob banker.”

National Democrats pulled out all the stops for Giannoulias, including two appearances by Obama, a friend who included Giannoulias in his pickup basketball games. A parade of administration officials and Democratic senators campaigned with Giannoulias or helped him raise money. He spent a cool $9.9 million, but Kirk still managed to top that with $14 million.

However, Kirk faced his own character issue. During the campaign, he was caught telling voters he had been previously named the Navy’s intelligence officer of the year, which wasn’t true. He also exaggerated other aspects of his military record. And he was on the defensive for some of his votes, including his support of the Wall Street bailout in 2008 and of the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill to curb carbon emissions associated with global warming. During the campaign, he said he no longer supported cap and trade because of its potential harm to businesses in the state. He told National Journal, “I didn’t back away a little. I backed away entirely.”

Television ads from both sides reflected the battle over character. Democrats’ spots called Kirk a liar, while Republicans highlighted Giannoulias’ connection to reputed organized crime figures. Polling in the contest seesawed between the two candidates. Giannoulias benefited from a Democratic registration advantage and the outpouring of support from the White House, but he struggled to close the deal. Polls in the final weeks showed a large segment of the electorate, roughly 15%, still undecided. On Election Day, Kirk eked out a 48% to 46% victory.

In the Senate, Kirk was given a seat on the Appropriations Committee as a reward for scoring a GOP Senate pickup. He said he that as a senator, he would look to work with “the people who are not in favor of new taxes but do not bring a strong social agenda to the table.” In his first year, his voting record put him firmly at the middle of the chamber. He generally sided with the GOP on major issues, but broke from most of his party on supporting repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding actively gay military service members and on repealing ethanol subsidies. He also joined most Democrats in refusing to bar the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood and to refuse to limit the application of the Davis-Bacon Act, which sets prevailing wage rates.

He was active on foreign policy issues, calling early for military intervention in Libya, questioning U.S. aid to Pakistan and working with New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on a measure to tighten sanctions against Iran.

But then, Kirk checked himself into a hospital in January 2012 after suffering dizziness and a headache. Doctors found a blockage in his carotid artery on the right side of his neck, which caused a stroke. After he underwent the first of three surgeries, doctors predicted parts of his body would be paralyzed, but that his prospects for a full mental recovery were good. He released a video in May in which he announced that he was walking again, and by September, he was holding videoconferences with staffers. Even so, he did not elude controversy: His ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, accused him in a Federal Election Commission complaint of hiding payments made from his reelection account during the 2010 election cycle to his then-girlfriend, Dodie McCracken.

On the opening day of the 113th Congress, Kirk climbed the U.S. Capitol steps to return to work as hundreds looked on and applauded. He was assisted by Vice President Joe Biden and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, his best friend in the Senate. Biden, who missed extended time as a senator in 1988 because of surgeries for brain aneurysms, reassured Kirk as he began his climb: “You got all day, Pal. It took me seven months to make these steps.” Kirk told the Chicago Sun-Times that his experience gave him a new insight into people who rely on Medicaid. “Had I been limited to that I would have had no chance to recover like I did. … I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke,” he said. He later announced his support in March for same-sex marriage. “When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others,” he said.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2854

(202) 228-4611

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 524
Washington, DC 20510-1308

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-2854

(217) 492-5099

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 524
Washington, DC 20510-1308

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2854

(217) 492-5099

John C. Kluczynski Federal Office Building Suite 3900
Chicago, IL 60604-1480

DISTRICT OFFICE

(312) 886-3506

(312) 886-2117

John C. Kluczynski Federal Office Building Suite 3900
Chicago, IL 60604-1480

DISTRICT OFFICE

(217) 492-5089

(217) 492-5099

607 East Adams Street Suite 1520
Springfield, IL 62701-1635

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-2854

(217) 492-5099

607 East Adams Street Suite 1520
Springfield, IL 62701-1635

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 224-2854

(217) 492-5099

275 Whistler Road
Highland Park, IL 60035

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

275 Whistler Road
Highland Park, IL 60035

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Agriculture

Cade Clurman
Deputy Legislative Director

Animal Rights

Appropriations

Brian Looser
Legislative Assistant

Jeannette Windon
Legislative Director

Arts

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Banking

Andrew Field
Director of Constituent Services

Brett Quick
Senior Policy Advisor

Communication

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Crime

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Economics

Samuel Mahler
Legislative Assistant

Education

Brian Looser
Legislative Assistant

Cade Clurman
Deputy Legislative Director

Natalia Odebralski
Legislative Assistant

(202) 224-2854

Energy

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Jonathan Vanderplas
Legislative Counsel

Environment

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Jonathan Vanderplas
Legislative Counsel

Rob Johnson
Outreach Coordinator; Field Representative

Family

Brian Looser
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Andrew Field
Director of Constituent Services

Samuel Mahler
Legislative Assistant

Brett Quick
Senior Policy Advisor

Foreign

Jason Geske
Legislative Fellow

Rob Ganim
Legislative Assistant

rob_ganim@kirk.senate.gov
(202) 224-2854

Govt Ops

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Health

Brian Looser
Legislative Assistant

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Cade Clurman
Deputy Legislative Director

Andrew Vogt
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Robert Zarate
National Security Advisor

Melissa Decker
Senior Policy Advisor

Housing

Andrew Field
Director of Constituent Services

Human Rights

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Immigration

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Intelligence

Robert Zarate
National Security Advisor

Internet

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Judiciary

Greg Tosi
Legislative Counsel

greg_tosi@kirk.senate.gov
(202) 224-2854

Mark Crowley
Legislative Aide

Labor

Brian Looser
Legislative Assistant

Cade Clurman
Deputy Legislative Director

Natalia Odebralski
Legislative Assistant

(202) 224-2854

Medicare

Cade Clurman
Deputy Legislative Director

Military

Melissa Decker
Senior Policy Advisor

Jennifer Mitchell
Military Legislative Assistant (on maternity leave)

National Security

Robert Zarate
National Security Advisor

Public Works

Pete Nelson
Deputy Scheduler

Science

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Jason Geske
Legislative Fellow

Small Business

Samuel Mahler
Legislative Assistant

Natalia Odebralski
Legislative Assistant

(202) 224-2854

Social Security

Samuel Mahler
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Andrew Field
Director of Constituent Services

Samuel Mahler
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Jason Geske
Legislative Fellow

Telecommunications

Greg Tosi
Legislative Counsel

greg_tosi@kirk.senate.gov
(202) 224-2854

Transportation

Sarah Higgins
Senior Advisor

Jonathan Vanderplas
Legislative Counsel

Rob Johnson
Outreach Coordinator; Field Representative

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Mark Kirk
Votes: 1,778,698
Percent: 48.01%
Alexander Giannoulias
Votes: 1,719,478
Percent: 46.42%
2010 PRIMARY
Mark Kirk
Votes: 420,373
Percent: 56.63%
Patrick Hughes
Votes: 142,928
Percent: 19.26%
Donald Lowery
Votes: 66,357
Percent: 8.94%
Kathleen Thomas
Votes: 54,038
Percent: 7.28%
Andy Martin
Votes: 37,480
Percent: 5.05%
2008 GENERAL
Mark Kirk
Votes: 153,082
Percent: 52.56%
Daniel Seals
Votes: 138,176
Percent: 47.44%
2008 PRIMARY
Mark Kirk
Votes: 44,967
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
Special Senate 2010 (47%); House: 2008 (53%); 2006 (53%); 2004 (64%); 2002 (69%); 2000 (51%)

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