After waiting months to ensure that he would not face Attorney General Lisa Madigan in a general election battle, GOP Rep. Mark Kirk is officially entering the 2010 Senate race this morning. Kirk frustrated both local and national Republicans with his indecision, so he's hoping to bolster his campaign with some early, high-profile endorsements from within his own party. According to FOX Chicago, one such supporter will be former Gov. Jim Edgar, who is scheduled to appear with Kirk when he launches his campaign in Kennilworth minutes from now.
Edgar's backing is not a surprise. In an interview with the State Journal-Register last November, he cited Kirk's potential Senate candidacy as a way for the Republican Party to "move to the middle" in Illinois:
[Edgar] pointed to the re-election of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park, a moderate Republican who won in what basically is a Democratic area.
“That gives us, I think, the kind of person to run for the U.S. Senate in two years,” Edgar said.
But in the same interview, the former governor suggested that the party find candidates Latinos can support:
“We cannot lose the Hispanic vote like we’ve lost the African-American vote, or we’re going to be a minority party forever,” Edgar said.
As we pointed out at the time, if growing Latino support is part of the GOP strategy, Kirk is an odd choice. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has already released a memo arguing that Kirk is unlikely to draw support from the immigrant community. It's not hard to see why.
As his two-time Democratic challenger certainly remembers, Kirk issued a series of mailers in 2006 claiming "Dan Seals Says Amnesty Is The Answer." He followed up those tactics by suggesting on the House floor that the U.S. should have border patrol agents distribute condoms to stem the flow of Mexicans into the U.S., even though Mexican fertility rates have plummeted since 1980. Four years ago, he voted for border fence as well as several bills sponsored by xenophobic Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
The list of transgressions doesn't stop there. In 2007, Kirk was tacitly endorsed by a local white supremacist organization -- Chicago Friends Of American Renaissance -- for holding immigration views that were "encouraging." And this past April, speaking before the Chicago City Club, Kirk dodged a question about comprehensive immigration reform from Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He's lost," Rehab told us after the speech. "He doesn't have an answer because he doesn't have a solution."
Of course, immigration reform isn't the only issue of importance to Latinos, who make up 20 percent of the Chicagoland population. But it's near the top for many families struggling to stay united and keep food on the table.