Summer's end means campaign season begins

September 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

There is music. And there are the insignias of labor: the machinists, the sheet metal workers, the pilots, the food industry workers. This is labor's day in the sun, and traditionally a moment for union leadership to flex its political muscle. But labor arguably isn't the political force it once was, though you'll get an argument on that here.

"Based on the plight of the country, I think the labor movement is stronger than ever, because of job losses, and the need to come together and be strong," said Diane Redmond, Amalgamated Transit Workers.

"I got to give my opponent a lot of credit. He's created a lot of jobs, but he's created them in China," said Alexi Giannoulias, (D) nominee for U.S. Senate.

The Democrat running for Barak Obama's former Senate seat is locked in a dead heat with the Republican who has served five terms in the House.

"This is normally a Democratic state, but this is not a Democratic year," said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, (R) nominee for U.S. Senate. "There is a rising tide of independent voters concerned about spending, debt, and new taxes. I'm the candidate who wants to spend less and tax less."

Mark Kirk worked the Labor Day parade circuit Monday in Schaumburg and Zion. Alexi Giannoulias keynoted the Labor Day rally at Millennium Park, and he sought to portray his opponent as anti-jobs, anti-minimum wage -- a D.C. insider.

"My opponent has been in Washington, D.C., for 20 years, working for some of the worst budgets ever, and what we need is fresh ideas, someone fighting for middle class families," said Giannoulias.

"We need to emphasize the core principles that built this economy, and especially in Illinois, a less corrupt government," Kirk said.

"I think they both stink. I don't think we have any choice. I still don't know what I'm gonna do," said Brian McLaughlin, voter.

A family bank that failed and a resume different on paper than in reality. Both candidates carry baggage. Each has been trying to land a breakaway punch. They have 57 days left.

"It's 114 days if you don't plan to sleep, and I don't plan to sleep," said Gov. Quinn.

The governor who took over for the governor who got kicked out finds himself with some challenges. Pat Quinn, according to a new Tribune poll, has some high unfavorables, and is trailing Bloomington Republican Bill Brady by a few percentage points.

But four of every 10 polled really don't know much at all about Brady.

"Senator Brady hasn't created one job. That's the difference," Quinn said.

Before a labor audience Monday, Quinn trumpeted that since the first of the year, Illinois has gained more jobs than any other Midwestern state.

While Brady and Quinn are in a donnybrook, so too are Kirk and Giannoulias.

Giannoulias says Kirk has consistently voted against an extension of unemployment benefits, and his opposition to a recent jobs bill presents a stark contrast between the candidates. But Kirk says the bill was larded up and would have put him in a position of voting to deepen the deficit.

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