ILLINOIS | IL-sen

Kirk Won’t Attend GOP Convention

As he bucks his party at every turn, GOP leaders have given him significant leeway.

April 14, 2016, 11:19 a.m.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R) “will not be attending [the GOP convention in Cleveland] and will instead focus on his own campaign, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.” (Washington Post)

LEFT TURN AHEAD. Ahead of his reelection “Kirk isn’t just distancing himself from the rest of the GOP — he’s fleeing from it. From the Supreme Court vacancy battle to gay rights to criminal justice reform, the moderate Illinois Republican is sounding more like a Democrat with each passing day as he fights to save his political life in an overwhelmingly blue state this fall.”

“Kirk is one of just two outliers in the Senate GOP Conference on whether the chamber should vote on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court this year and has bent over backward to show he disagrees with his fellow Republicans. …  Just this week, Kirk co-sponsored a criminal justice reform bill that would loosen some mandatory minimum sentences, despite complaints within the GOP that it would unwittingly release violent criminals early from prison. And he joined with five of the most liberal senators to urge the NBA to move its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to the state’s controversial new law that bans anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people.”

Kirk: “For me, it’s just Mark Kirk being Mark Kirk, because I was always very independent of my party in the House, as well as in the Senate. … I think for Illinois, they want a thoughtful, independent voice and not just a party Xerox.”

“Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has wrangled the vast majority of his ranks in line with his no-hearings stance, Republican leaders have given Kirk significant leeway to distance himself — acknowledging he faces political headwinds like no other member of the GOP Conference.”

“Fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D), the powerful second-ranking Senate Democrat, said ‘people have noticed’ Kirk’s stance on the Supreme Court, and he said most voters back in the state agree with him.” Durbin:  “When he breaks from Mitch McConnell, it helps him. … At the end of the day, though, he has chosen Mitch to be his leader.” (Politico)

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