Tammy Duckworth defeats Mark Kirk to win Senate


Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) at a campaign event in October. Duckworth ousted opponent Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) in the general election on Tuesday.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Ill.) victory over Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was the only seat flip in the Senate Tuesday night for the Democrats.

Duckworth beat Kirk by more than 14 percent, Politico reported, with the race called shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. Then, it seemed Kirk’s seat might be the first domino to fall in a series of Republican losses. As the night progressed, however, it quickly became clear that would not be the case.

Duckworth ended up being the only Democrat to flip a seat from a Republican incumbent, with losses for Democrats in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Republicans maintain a majority in the Senate by a margin of 51 to 45.

In her acceptance speech, made as Republican nominee Donald Trump began gaining ground, Duckworth said a Clinton victory might be a win for “inclusiveness, and for the American values we hold dear.”

“Our hope is that tonight’s result serves as a new birth of freedom — and also a reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” she said.

Duckworth said she would work to bring unity to the Senate after her inauguration.

College affordability, clean energy and veteran care were at the top of Duckworth’s platform. She said on Tuesday she would be a “watchdog for taxpayer dollars.”

“I have made procurement reform — particularly when it comes to waste in defense spending — a priority,” she said. “We can make the investments in our people that will make our nation more prosperous — and more secure.”

The race between Kirk and Duckworth was nothing short of contentious, with candidates — both veterans — clashing over military intervention, refugee policy and immigration reform throughout the campaign.

According to projections from FiveThirtyEight, Duckworth had a sizable lead in the race and expanded on it in the last few weeks of the election. Kirk lost ground after questioning Duckworth’s family history at a televised debate between the two candidates.

“I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk said.

The comment was in response to Duckworth’s reference to her military lineage. Duckworth was born in Thailand to a mother of Chinese descent and an American father, who she said has ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.

After these remarks, Krik lost endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control political action committee run by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).

In his concession speech, Kirk said he hoped to work with Duckworth in the coming weeks to “show kids across Illinois that opponents can peacefully bury the hatchet after a tough election.”

Duckworth too urged unity in her speech.

“While there will be disagreements with my friends on the other side of the aisle — which is healthy — I pledge to start with the presumption that my colleagues, regardless of party, love this country as much as I do, and that we all want what’s best for our children,” she said.

This story was updated with comments from Duckworth and Kirk.

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