Kirk Ponders Ill. Race, Blasts Corrupt Pols

Posted December 10, 2008 at 11:50am

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Wednesday he is considering running for Senate if there is a special election to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s seat. The Illinois Republican also did not mince words about some of the potential Senate appointees mentioned in the federal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

Federal investigators arrested Blagojevich on Tuesday morning and accused him of selling Obama’s now-vacant seat to the highest bidder, in addition to other corruption charges. Illinois leaders are now pushing to change state law for a pricey special election to fill the seat instead of a gubernatorial appointment.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Kirk said he was looking at running but thought state legislators’ first priority should be getting Blagojevich out of office.

“I will look at it,” Kirk said. “As far as the people of Illinois, the first job is not to decide how we pick a Senator. The first job is getting rid of the governor.”

Kirk did not hold back his disdain for “Senate Candidates one through five” mentioned the federal complaint, at least one of whom the governor said offered money upfront in return for the Senate appointment.

“I think if they were heavily involved with Rod Blagojevich, they will not be viable for a special election — if they can hold public office at all,” Kirk said.

The Illinois Republican said Senate candidates one through five “need to sign criminal attorneys and try to protect themselves against coming indictments.”

“I think Senate candidate number 5 is going to get indicted, so that person better get a good criminal attorney,” Kirk said.

ABC News reported Wednesday that the candidate in question is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), though Jackson vehemently denied that he had offered Blagojevich any kind of quid pro quo for a Senate appointment. He also said his meeting with Blagojevich at the beginning of the week was the first time he spoke with the governor in four years.

Kirk could be Republicans’ best hope to win the Senate seat, whether it is in a special election or on Election Day in 2010. A fundraising powerhouse, Kirk’s battle-tested moderate Republican image has won him five elections in his district north of Chicago.

Regardless of the candidate, Kirk said state politicians’ first priority should be fighting corruption that has become a “bipartisan cancer” in his home state and giving U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald all of the resources he needs to root out the corruption.