Congressman Mark Kirk will not take part in the's debate and his campaign has given no official reason for his absence.
Five-term Congressman Kirk is endorsed by the Illinois Republican Party leadership. The self-styled, moderate was elected five times to represent the 10th District centered on the North Shore. A divorced, naval reservist who has served active duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan believes he is the party's best chance to recapture the senate seat from the Democrats.
"As difficult as this may be, I choose to stand and fight for the future of our country," said Kirk.
Kirk has been hounded during the campaign by Andy Martin, the self-described "Internet powerhouse" who has used radio ads to raise questions about the congressman's sexuality. Martin--who has run for several offices in the past including president of the United States-- will participate in the debate and claims he's the reason Kirk scheduled an appearance downstate Thursday night.
"Because I have a long record of public service, for working families, and ordinary citizens in Illinois," said Martin in a video.
Hinsdale attorney Patrick Hughes has agreed to debate. He calls himself the conservative alternative to Kirk whom Hughes says is too liberal for most Illinois Republicans.
The third debater is John Arrington, a former two-term alderman in south suburban Harvey. He describes himself as a born-again Christian, pro-life, free market conservative.
Thursday afternoon, Mark Kirk's spokesman Eric Elk issued a statement saying the congressman looks forward to a Republican debate on January 27, sponsored by the Union League Club of Chicago.
Two other U.S. Senate candidates, downstaters Kathleen Thomas and Don Lowery chose not to participate Thursday night.