“No frickin’ way am I retiring.”
That’s what Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., told CQ Roll Call Thursday, as Democrats eagerly eyed his Senate seat, up in 2016.
Kirk is viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republicans for a several reasons. He suffered an ischemic stroke nearly three years ago, and he’s a Republican in a state where Democrats have been traditionally strong.
Kirk says he plans to be around awhile. “With all this rehab, for me just to walk was a huge effort. I had to re-learn how to walk again after the stroke. And all the rehab and all the effort shows the mental determination times 10 to keep serving.”
Republicans will defend 24 Senate seats to the Democrats’ 10 in two years, and Kirk has long been seen as vulnerable. But he’s done well in Chicago’s suburbs and is regarded as a moderate, which could make him formidable.
“The only way that Democrats can win in Illinois, is to say, ‘Ohhhh Kirk has health problems, he’s going to retire,’’’ Kirk said. “For Democrats looking at a minority life and seeing that they cannot win in Illinois is so frustrating that they will just assume away any issue. They’ll just say to willing reporters, ‘I think Kirk is going to retire.’’’