President Obama endorses Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Senate race


Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth celebrates on March 15 after her Democratic primary victory on election night at the Ivy Room in Chicago. She was endorsed by President Barack Obama in her Senate race against Mark Kirk on Wednesday.

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) for Senate on Wednesday in her race against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

“I’m proud to support Tammy Duckworth for the seat I once held in the United States Senate,” Obama said in a statement. “Few people fight as passionately for our veterans as Tammy.”

Duckworth was appointed assistant secretary public for public and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by Obama in 2009 before running for Congress in 2011. She also served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs starting in 2006 before joining the Obama administration.

Obama also noted that he was “proud” to sign into law a piece of veteran-focused legislation that Duckworth introduced, a veteran suicide prevention act.

However, Kirk has criticized Duckworth’s dedication to veterans for “repeatedly failing to protect” those in her care during her time working for Veteran’s Affairs. Kirk has previously brought up a civil lawsuit against Duckworth by two employees of an Illinois veterans’ home who say Duckworth retaliated against them.

“She repeatedly has failed to protect the veterans that (former) Gov. Rod Blagojevich placed under her care,” Kirk said at his campaign party following the Illinois primaries. “It’s a pretty bad job.”

Both Duckworth and Kirk are veterans. Duckworth was deployed by the Army to Iraq in 2004, where her combat helicopter was shot down. Kirk was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve in 1989.

According to a poll conducted by GS Strategy Group for Kirk’s campaign, Duckworth was leading by 3 percent, polling at nearly 43 percent to Kirk nearly 40 percent. The poll, taken March 30 to 31, was comprised of 600 likely general election voters. However, nearly 18 percent of voters are still undecided.

Duckworth said the endorsement was appreciated in the tight race.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the endorsements of President Obama and Vice President Biden,” Duckworth said in a statement. “I am profoundly grateful that President Obama recognized my commitment to serve my fellow veterans and gave me the opportunity to do so in the earliest days of his administration.”

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Twitter: @robinlopsahl