Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Updated on September 1, 2004 at 1:00 am, revised at 12:25 pm

Three Easy Pieces:

Index of Recent Postings on "Public Affairs,":

1. Cong. Mark Kirk(R-10th Cong.Dist.) mulls over what to do about Alan Keyes
2. Wal-Mart, Mayor Daley, PR, platitudes and jobs
3. Alan Keyes on whether Illinois is a hostile workplace for jobs.
Will Cong. Mark Steven Kirk (R- Ft. Sheridan) sit the U. S. Senate race out, support Barack Obama or straddle the fence? Kirk is an up and comer, says Lynn Sweet.

Cong. Kirk, who won an open seat in the 10th Congressional District [North Shore and NW suburbs] in 2000 by about 5500 votes over then eight year state rep. Lauren Beth Gash, had weak opposition and some favorable redistricting in 2002 [71% to 29% over Democrat Hank Perritt]. With a little known and underfunded, anti- Iraq War opponent [Democrat Lee Goodman], Kirk is expected to do as well or better this time around. [10th Cong. Dist. Democratic Candidate Lee Goodman is the guest on next week's suburban edition of Public Affairs].

So, Cong. Kirk has no immediate election contest concerns that would cause him to shy away from the conservative Republican Senate Candidate Alan Keyes. In 2000, he won with about 32% vote in a tough 10 candidate primary by running "somewhat right," and "somewhat vague," on social issues like abortion, and by getting the early implicit support of Cong. Porter's 20 year old organization in the 10th-- and the late official endorsement of Cong. John Porter.

In the general election, running against a tough opponent-- then 8 year state rep. Lauren Beth Gash, Cong. Kirk squeaked by, running to the center, and winning with more than half of his two point margin of victory coming from Tolbert Chisum's New Trier Township Republican Organization.

Kirk’s race against Gash followed in the mode of his mentor and the 10th Cong. District’s retiring 20 year congressman—John Porter, for whom the phrase “social moderate and fiscal conservative,” was invented. Since being elected, Kirk has become a stronger supporter of the Bush [supply side] tax cuts than might have been anticipated, but has also become even more “pro-choice,” on abortion than when he ran in the general election in 2000, claiming that the law has gone that way, and he is simply following the law. He has also continued to be a strong gun control advocate and “environmentalist.” On the other hand, Cong. Kirk, who has previously rejected school vouchers, voted for a pilot program of school vouchers for Washington, DC. And, Kirk has continued to be strong on defense, military preparedness, Israel and the War in Iraq.

So, it is not surprising that Cong. Kirk would not identify with the Alan Keyes views on Gays, Guns, abortion, or God for that matter. But, why not talk Republican unity or “duck and dodge,” when asked about Alan Keyes. After all, one day Kirk will be running statewide. He probably will be unable to get the support of the conservative base. However, shouldn't he act now as if he is trying to avoid provoking the enmity of the conservative base that will dominate a Republican primary?

So, Cong. Kirk must be thinking that the Keyes effort may be so weak that no one will hold his indifference to Keyes against him. Also, moderates may be more likely to make Kirk their choice down the road, if he is not tarnished with the Keyes association. Or, at least that seems to be how Cong. Kirk is playing it now.

On the other hand, showing he can strike a balance as a good soldier, Cong. Kirk has appeared at a recent fundraiser in Barrington with Speaker Hastert for embattled [and conservative] Cong. Phil Crane--but then again that was hardly a high profile appearance, with no media, other than Public Affairs, in attendance. ********************************************

Lynn Sweet:...Mark Steven Kirk is the Congressman from the North Shore, a big up and comer in the Illinois [Republican] Party. He had a seminar [this morning] on the future of the suburban vote. And, I talked to him about what he wants to do. He pretty much conceded whatever it is he wants to do, which is to build the number of Republicans voting in Cook County, it is just not going to happen this September, and it is just not because of Alan Keyes. You know, President Bush probably isn’t going to do well in Illinois. But, he [Kirk] is convinced there is a future for the Republican Party in Illinois and that future is the suburbs…even Mark Steven Kirk when I asked him,“who are you going to vote for in the Senate Race,” Bob, guess what he told me, you ready? He[Cong. Kirk] said, "I have to think about what I am going to do."
Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief for the Chieago Sun-Times, reporting from the Republican National Convention on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, August 31, 2004.
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of Public Affairs, can be reached at