Kirk, Giannoulias compete for Obama's old Senate seat

February 4, 2010 4:46:10 AM PST
It has the potential to be a costly and contentious race. Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Congressman Mark Kirk will face off for President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. The race has gained national attention, including the attention of the White House.

Just hours after their wins, both Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias were back out campaigning Wednesday, but now the focus is on November.

Mark Kirk's message is bringing back integrity to the State of Illinois, while Alexi Giannoulias is focusing on jobs. Both candidates went on the attack during their victory speeches last night and it continued Wednesday, although their campaign appearances Wednesday morning did get off to a bit of a rough start.

The big introduction, but where is the candidate? Finally, Mark Kirk appeared from the back of the room at the Republican Unity Breakfast. At the same time, his opponent Alexi Giannoulias held a press conference on a Cicero street where he was constantly interrupted by the sound of trucks driving by. Despite some awkward moments in their hours-old campaigns, Kirk and Giannoulias wasted no time attacking each other.

"I would put it to you, just about everybody in Illinois is going to agree we cannot afford Alexi Giannoulias," said Mark Kirk, (R) Senate nominee.

Mark Kirk accused State Treasurer Giannoulias of mismanaging Illinois' Bright Start college savings program. Kirk also raised questions about Giannoulias' family owned Broadway Bank, which is failing.

Standing with some laid off GE workers in Cicero, Giannoulias kicked off his campaign talking about jobs.

"I hope it is not a bitter ugly election... I hope we talk about moving this country forward," said Alexi Giannoulias, (D) Senate nominee.

But the attacks are going to be a big reality in this campaign. While the Democrats are anxious to hold on to their majority in the Senate, the Republicans believe Mark Kirk is their best chance of picking up another GOP seat, a Senate seat that was held by President Barack Obama.

"This is over who is going to control the destiny of the country," said Dick Simpson, UIC political science chair.

And to control that destiny is going to take millions of dollars. The Republican National Committee is already promising money and manpower to help Kirk.

"We're going to put a lot of assets on the ground, a lot of resources, to deliver a message of empowerment, ownership and opportunity for the people of Illinois," said Michael Steele, RNC chairman.

And you can be assured Alexi Giannoulias will be getting support from the White House and the Democratic party. Kirk was out of the gate Wednesday with a Magellan poll that shows Kirk leading his Democratic opponent 47 percent to 35 percent. Giannoulias responded by saying another poll shows that he is in the lead.

LeAlan Jones is the Green party candidate in the US Senate race.