Watch Rep. Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Part II
Watch Rep. Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Part III
Watch Rep. Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Part IV
Watch Rep. Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Part V
Watch Rep. Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Part VI
U.S. Senate Candidate Andy Martin knew he wouldn't find Mark Kirk at ABC7on Thursday night. The 10th district U.S. congressman told debate organizers some time ago he would not attend the forum.
"If I had Mark Kirk's voting record, I'm not sure I'd be here tonight either," said Martin.
Martin, joined by self-described conservatives Patrick Hughes and John Arrington, made the absent Kirk the favorite target for the night.
"The Democrats have sold you a bill of goods. Mark Kirk has joined them," said Hughes.
Five-term congressman Kirk is endorsed by party leaders as the moderate Republican with the best chance to recapture the seat once held by President Barack Obama.
Arrington, a born-again, conservative former alderman in Harvey says he can be the state's next African-American senator.
"I present myself as a man of character. The voters are smart and they'll know who to vote for," said Arrington.The candidates sparred over Martin's controversial radio ad in which he questions Kirk's sexual orientation.
"The ads were reprehensible," said Hughes.
"I think if that was not true, that would just be an outrage," said Arrington.
"What I said was that there was a rumor about Mr. Kirk that he had to answer it. And the media made him answer it and I dropped my commercial. I was successful," said Martin.
Hughes insisted he's the only electable conservative alternative to Kirk and that Martin is a distraction.
"As for Andy Martin, I don't think anything he does is newsworthy and you guys should probably stop covering him," Hughes.
Two other U.S. Senate candidates, downstaters Kathleen Thomas and Don Lowery chose not to participate Thursday night.
A Kirk spokesman said the congressman will debate his opponents on January 27 at the Union League Club in Chicago.