Illinois candidates for US Senate weigh in on Kagan

May 10, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The debate over the president's pick is playing out in the tough US Senate race in Illinois.

Generally speaking, it takes several days after a Supreme Court nomination for the political battle lines to form. Of course, the 100 sitting US senators eventually will make the decision whether to confirm Elena Kagan. But Senate candidates, including those running this year in Illinois, must also weigh in on Kagan.

"I'm gonna take a very judicious approach and read her writings and watch closely her confirmation hearings," said Rep. Mark Kirk, (R) US Senate candidate.

Republican candidate Mark Kirk says he will take his time before answering the hypothetical but relevant question on how he would vote on Elena Kagan's nomination. His opponent, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, says he would support the President Obama's choice. He then pointed out that Kirk joined conservative Republicans last summer in their opposition to Obama's first high court nominee.

"The people of Illinois deserve to know why Congressman Kirk joined Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh in opposing Justice Sotomayor's nomination and whether he will once again stand with the right wing in opposing Solicitor General Kagan as well," said Giannoulias.

Kirk, who describes himself as a social moderate, explained why he would not have voted to confirm Sotomayor.

"I felt especially that her speech before Duke University in 2005 showed a very activist view toward making laws from the bench," said Giannoulias.

In its ads and news releases the Giannoulias campaign characterizes Kirk as too conservative on social issues for Illinois. The strategy is similar to one used by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn against his Republican opponent, Senator Bill Brady.

Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green says, in the past, it has been a tried and true method to beat Illinois Republicans. But 2010, he says, might be different.

"Perhaps, for the first time in a long time, economic issues may trump social issues and you may have a unified Republican party. If they are unified, we're gonna have two very close elections for governor and senator," said Green.

In Washington, Monday afternoon, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell questioned Kagan's experience because she has never served as a judge. Alabama's Jeff Sessions called it a "weakness."

Just over a year ago, the Senate voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general. That was a bipartisan vote including seven Republicans.

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