Sen. Kirk holds re-election fundraiser

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Senator Mark Kirk kicked off his 2016 re-election campaign with a fundraiser lunch on Monday. (WLS)

The election is still a year and a half away, but Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is already aggressively pursuing donations for what is expected to be a competitive re-election campaign.

So far no one has officially announced they are running against Kirk, but he says he needs the time to prepare for what is likely to be a tough and expensive race that could cost $25 million.

"What Kirk race wasn't a big barn burner," Kirk said. "To go early is to understand how much it takes to build a coalition."

Republican leaders and big GOP donors from all over the state, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, joined Kirk Monday for a kick-off fundraiser.

(SOT@18:42-Paul Green-Roosevelt University Political Science Dept)
"By raising money this money early, this would close out any very conservative Republican challenger in primary," says Paul Green, professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University.

Green says Kirk will need all the money he can raise for the general election, which is likely to be the number one targeted race for Democrats. That means national money will be pouring into the race. Members of Illinois' congressional delegation, including Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster and Robin Kelly, have been mentioned as potential opponents. Duckworth is considered the favorite against Kirk.

History is not on kirk's side. In Illinois, it is very difficult for a Republican to win a statewide office during a presidential election year. But former Gop state chairman Pat Brady says 2016 will be different..

"As opposed to last time, we have a Republican governor, better infrastructure, fundraising," Brady said. "It's a tough race, but Mark in good shape."
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