SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) --The race for the United States Senate seat in Illinois is heating up as Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth unleashed new political attacks on incumbent Mark Kirk. Kirk was in Republican stronghold DuPage County Friday as he tries to unify the party behind what has become his maverick reelection campaign.
After Sen. Kirk addressed the Naperville Chamber of Commerce, media members were asked to leave the room during the question and answer session. Later, Kirk explained the stroke he survived in 2012 makes question and answer sessions difficult.
"That's just a Kirk thing. I'll take the hit for that. Ok," Kirk said.
The senator, whose bus tour took him to Republican Day in Springfield this week, reaffirmed his decision to vote for someone than his own party's presidential nominee Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton. He is also one of only three Republican senators to support a confirmation hearing for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Kirk said his self-described independent, fiscally conservative, socially moderate politics are needed now more than ever.
"With such bad choices between Clinton and Trump, who we decide should be our senator is all the more important now," Kirk said.
"Mark Kirk is all smoke and mirrors," said Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth said the incumbent's "independence" is not supported by his pro-Republican voting record in Washington.
"This is a guy who will say anything (in) an election year to try to get elected. But the people of Illinois are far smarter than that. They know a fake when they see one and he's a fake," she said.
"She would very much like me to be some right wing lunatic that she could easily beat. And I'm not that person," Kirk retorted.
Kirk's bus tour resumes next week. He and Rep. Duckworth, both of whom have physical disabilities, are spending much of their time on the road in central and downstate Illinois.