The Southern Illinoisan: Duckworth edges Kirk for Senator

The race for junior senator for the State of Illinois is among the most interesting in the country.

We have the incumbent Republican Mark Kirk, a political maverick. Kirk’s first term as senator was highlighted by his willingness to buck party ideology, a badge he wears with honor.

Kirk likes to call himself a leading member of the Illinois Party.

“I don’t allow ideology to get in the way of advancing my state’s interests,” he said.

Although the majority of Illinoisans should find that refreshing, that independent streak has created some friction among die-hard Republicans. A story published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this summer referred to Kirk as a man without a party.

Then, there is Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic challenger.

Part of Duckworth’s story is well-known. A Blackhawk helicopter pilot, she lost both legs during the conflict in Iraq. While recovering from her injuries, she advocated on behalf of other veterans to Sen. Dick Durbin. Duckworth initially ran for Congress at Durbin’s urging.

Like Kirk, Duckworth has shown a willingness to work across the aisle in her brief political career. Whereas Kirk refers to himself as member of the Illinois Party, Duckworth described herself as a pragmatist several times during a recent interview.

And, both espouse middle-of-the-road positions that would serve citizens of Illinois — and the entire country — well.

Both Kirk and Duckworth disagree with Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Both said provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on parents’ policies until 26 are important.

Both believe the Second Amendment can be protected while enacting common sense reforms. Likewise, both say immigration reforms need to be addressed by allowing undocumented aliens to be granted some sort of legal status after coming forward and paying fines and fees related to entering the country illegally.

The difference between the two candidates seems to be the depth of their plans for the future of Illinois and the United States.

The most intriguing ideas Duckworth brought to the table dealt with energy and manufacturing in Illinois. She pointed out that Illinois businesses are on the cutting edge of windmill technology — building both gear boxes and bases for windmills.

Yet, just 5 percent of Illinois’ electricity comes from wind.

Duckworth advocated for long-term tax credits that would allow companies to make capital investments necessary to keep the businesses in Illinois. She also noted that with research universities and the abundance of corn and soybeans grown in Illinois, the state should be the leader in a biofuel renaissance.

“We need to help coal with carbon-capture sequestration, and even as we reduce the use of coal in this country, other nations are still using coal,” Duckworth said. “Also we need to make sure as we transition into the other industries like wind and solar, I’m going to help our coal miners finish out their careers. But, let’s make sure their kids don’t have to go into coal mining, but have the opportunity to go into wind mills and nuclear and bio-fuels. And, make sure we put the emphasis on locating those new power industries where coal mines already are.”

That is the essence of pragmatism.

It is that combination of forward-looking pragmatism that, in our opinion, tilts the scale in favor of Tammy Duckworth.

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