National Democratic Party officials SAY THEY believe the republican-held 10th district seat is up for grabs. The race is a rematch of the surprisingly close 2006 election that kirk won by seven percentage points.
Two years later, the North Shore's Republican Congressman Kirk is still running for his political life.
"I have won four races for Congress in very competitive races and we're going to win a fifth one," said Kirk.
But Seals was encouraged by the wide support he received in 2006.
"The reason we didn't get more than 47 percent is because there were a lot of voters who hadn't gotten the message," he said. "And what I've seen since then is the appetite for change has only gotten stronger."
Seals, a business consultant who teaches at Northwestern, is counting on thousands of newly registered 10th district voters in northern Cook and southern Lake counties turning out November 4 to support another Democrat - favorite son presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"This race isn't about Barack Obama's coattails. This is about making the case for change for the 10th district," Seals said.
But Kirk pointed out that in 2004, when U.S. Senate candidate Obama won 70 percent of the vote, while he won re-election with 65 percent.
"We've already had a great experience with an Obama wave here. But the thing about our congressional district is, we vote for the candidate, not the party," said Kirk.
But the bigger weapon for Seals is the same one he used in 2006 - trying to link Kirk to George W. Bush, the Republican president with an historically low approval rating.
"He's been supporting this administration. My belief is if you keep sending the same people back to washington, you're just going get more of the same," Seals said.
The Kirk campaign has countered with even larger media buys, some ads stressing the congressman's independence from the White House.
And to further separate himself from conservative Republicans, KIirk proudly claims support from unions, Planned Parenthood and environmental groups.
"My opponent may wish to run against George Bush. Unfortunately, he's running against a very successful independent congressman named Mark Kirk," Kirk said.
Despite their very contentious race, the 10th district candidates have had limited contact with each other. A debate is reportedly scheduled for October 19 at the Deerfield High School.