Kirk, Duckworth Ads Go Negative in Illinois Senate Race

Kirk, Duckworth Ads Go Negative in Illinois Senate Race
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The Illinois Senate race is going increasingly negative. 

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk released a new campaign ad Friday hitting his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, on two fronts: the negativity of her campaign and her upcoming trial in a whistleblower case brought against her when she ran the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

The ad, called “Headed to Trial,” suggests Duckworth has been pushing negative campaign ads against Kirk as a way to deflect attention from charges she violated the state ethics code while she was director of the Illinois VA. The Kirk campaign has made a big push to draw attention to the trial since Duckworth announced she would challenge the first-term senator in next year’s election.

“Rep. Duckworth doesn’t want you to know she’s going to trial to face charges of violating the state’s ethics act for silencing whistleblowers while forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for all her legal bills,” the ad says.

It also labels her “just another Chicago politician headed for trial” with an image of Duckworth next to an image of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed Duckworth to run the state VA and is currently in federal prison for corruption.

The Duckworth campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit has been languishing for several years, but a hearing is scheduled early next month. The lawsuit also played a role in Duckworth’s 2012 election to the House, in which she unseated Rep. Joe Walsh, who was Kirk’s Republican primary opponent in the 2010 Senate election. 

The ad is an escalation of what’s already been a relatively negative campaign more than a year before the election. Duckworth’s campaign released an ad earlier this week attacking Kirk for some controversial statements the senator has made, including calling the Iran nuclear agreement “the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler.”

It’s also a departure from Kirk’s first campaign ad, which discussed the senator’s recovery from a stroke he suffered in 2012 and was widely praised by media and political commentators.

The Illinois campaign is expected to be one of the most hotly contested races in the country next year, with Kirk seen as vulnerable and Illinois thought to be a crucial state for Democrats attempting to win back control of the Senate. While Duckworth is the frontrunner in the race to be the Democratic challenger to Kirk, she’s facing a primary battle against Andrea Zopp, the former president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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