Thursday, August 23, 2007

Score one for Cong. Mark Kirk

It has been almost three decades since then Cong. Ab Mikva held the 10th CD seat for the Democrats. [See here] Republican John Porter won the seat in 1979 in a special election to replace Mikva, after President Carter appointed Mikva to a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship.

After Porter held the 10th CD seat for 21 years, his former Chief of Staff, Mark Kirk, continued the Republican tradition when he won the seat in 2000. Now, it looks like the Democrats may have been a bit premature in anticipating the take back of the 10th Cong. Seat in 2008.

Remember, by the time Kirk got to the general election in 2000, he was the veteran of many forums, after a bruising win in a ten-candidate primary that included, among others, a professional wrestler. Kirk’s opponent, former State Rep. Lauren Beth Gash, who had no contested primary—may, as a result not have been battle ready-- and that could have been the difference in her two point loss, that followed thirty-three, or so, general election forums.

Perhaps due to weak opponents and then perhaps due to someone thinking he should avoid the Anti-War boo birds, Kirk “played it safe,” and in large part avoided open community forums, townhall meetings and debates with his opponents during the last few years.

Last fall, when Kirk held onto to the seat with a six-point margin of victory over Democrat Dan Seals [who is running again], it looked like Kirk was on the run. In his only debate of the campaign, an October 26, 2006 event, Kirk seemed rusty relative to his challenger, and he probably lost the debate on style and technique points. In short, Kirk, after six years in Congress, appeared to have lost the edge he came in with.

Last night, 7th year Cong. Mark Steven Kirk [R-Highland Park, 10th CD] held a townhall meeting at the Palatine Township office. For the first 50 minutes or so of last night’s town meeting, it looked like the 2006 Kirk campaign was repeating itself. Kirk made short statements on Iraq and Iran and then touched on some minor issues, but devoted a great deal of time to bashing BP for its plans to increase its pollution of Lake Michigan. Kirk even had an expert on hand on the BP contemplated increase in pollution and it looked like Cong. Kirk might run out the clock before anyone could raise Iraq.

However, a small group of anti-war protesters in attendance forced the Iraq war issue. And, Kirk stood his ground and did fine. Yes, of the one hundred fifteen, or so, individuals in attendance, the hall was dominated, no doubt, by Republicans from Palatine friendly to Kirk. They were upset about illegal immigrants and Kirk’s strong stance on border control pleased them. And, so did, apparently, his strong stance on blocking BP from further pollution of Lake Michigan. And, they probably liked what he was saying about Metra, transportation funds and assistance for his District.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kirk took the military option off the table for dealing with Iran and that seemed to go down with most in attendance, too.

But, then the protestors said enough of that stuff; let’s get to the War. Judging by the applause and crowd noise, the protestors numbered between fifteen and thirty people. In any case, Kirk said, “Let’s be civil,” but okay, let’s have a conversation.

And, they did. Civil and thoughtful, all around: Kirk supporters, anti-war protestors and others, for about an hour. In response to a question, Cong. Mark Kirk explained that he did not raise electoral issues when he visited with the President in May, 2007 about Iraq. When the issue of those military personnel who had died in Iraq was personalized by the protestors, Kirk discussed his feelings of pain and appreciation for those who had made the ultimate sacrifice .

Cong. Kirk, as an 18-year naval reserve officer, wears this country’s uniform, so those are his “brothers and sisters who are dying,” and he made clear he truly feels the pain of their families and friends. Kirk said he knows how tough it is for military members to put their parents and loved ones through the agony of fearing that knock on their door with news of their death, but that members of the military do this for love of country.

Kirk explained to the protesters that he would not support a timetable for withdrawal because he did not want the “opponents of the United States to know exactly when they can prevail.” Kirk went on to argue that, “As we leave Iraq, we should do everything we can to make sure we never have to go back; two wars in Iraq are enough.” [But, see here and here].

Cong. Kirk also outlined the support Iran is giving to Hezbollah and Hamas and the efforts he supports to cut off that financial support, even though he does not support a military effort against Iran. There did not appear to be a lot of supporters in the room for Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.

There was one anti-war protestor who gave a brief defense of the President of Iran, arguing Ahmadinejad didn’t really say that he wanted to “wipe Israel off the face of the map” But, then the protestor conceded Ahmadinejad, "is a jerk." The anti-war protestors, or their fearless leaders, may want to jettison this guy from their group before their next rally. He won’t win many votes for the Democrat choice in the 10th CD, whether it is Dan Seals or Jay Footlik.

All in all, it was a good outing for Kirk. And, actually, he looked better than if the anti-war protestors hadn’t shown up. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and those in the audience had to notice the strength.

Sure, one swallow does not a spring make. Further, some of Kirk’s opponents in the crowd were filming the event and some footage on youtube might rally the Democratic troops. But, Kirk’s team was filming, too, and their own footage will rally their troops.

John Kerry won the 10th CD 53-47 in 2004 and the District may now be even more Democratic. Further, a lot of Kirk’s fate in 2008 depends on the national mood and the Presidential election. Moreover, when he faces an opponent in the hall instead of some protestors in the room, the debate could get sharper and tougher. However, if he does hold on in 2008, a lot of people are going to say Cong. Mark Steven Kirk went on the right track on a sultry, rainy evening in Palatine, IL on August 22, 2007. You can make book on it.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Richardson, Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at