Editor’s Note: This post was written by Connor Fitzgerald, Grace Harris, and Chance Lewtschenko.

The Senate race between U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and U.S. House Rep. Tammy Duckworth is one of the closer races in this upcoming election. It’s also one of the most important. With each candidate strongly backed by their party, it’s becoming one of the more publicized elections. Our prediction is that incumbent Senator Kirk will receive 55% of the vote. Both candidates are well liked in Illinois and have similar views on a majority of issues.

This election is also historic; for the first time in U.S history, both candidates are disabled. In 2012, incumbent Republican Senator Kirk suffered a stroke that caused his left side and right arm to become paralyzed. The stroke has changed Kirk’s outlook on life and made him an even more popular politician. In 2004, the Black Hawk helicopter Duckworth was piloting in Iraq was shot down, and she suffered the loss of both her legs and now lives with prosthetic limbs and a wheelchair.

Ultimately, the likely winner will be Kirk. His opponent, Duckworth is simply unqualified to hold a Senate position and the voters of Illinois know this. Duckworth is in the top 5% among all representatives in missed votes, missing 81 out of 704 votes in 2015. Duckworth is currently a representative of the 8th District of Illinois; before that she was the Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Duckworth has won her past house elections by very narrow margins, and her views and voting record aren’t overly Democratic. Kirk, who is a Republican, has strong backing from many Democrats and typically Democratic organizations. He is endorsed by both the Human Rights Campaign (a pro-LGBTQ organization) and Americans for Responsible Solutions (a gun control advocacy group). Kirk is actually the only Republican Senator with an “F” rating from the NRA. Duckworth has impressive endorsements as well, with support from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have received significant financial backing. Duckworth has raised over 10 million dollars in 2016 while Kirk has raised 8 million dollars. The average amount raised by a Senate member in 2016 is just under 4 million dollars.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and challenger Tammy Duckworth shake hands at a debate at the University of Illinois.

Kirk’s voting record has been a positive one so far. For the voters than actually intend to research the candidates they vote for, it will be clear that he has a history of voting moderately. He voted for the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that intended to combat violence against women, from domestic violence to international human trafficking. Likewise, he also voted in favor of increasing federal background checks for gun sales. One area where Duckworth and Kirk strongly disagree is the Iran deal. Duckworth supported the Iran nuclear deal, saying, “that the U.S. could not walk away from the agreement drawn up among its allies and attempt to negotiate alone.” With both candidates having similar views on a majority of social issues, something like this could determine a lot.

Kirk did receive a lot of backlash for his early support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Kirk later made a statement saying he “can not and will not support him.” Kirk originally supported him before the March 15th Illinois primary elections and then switched his views later. Kirk obviously risks offending strong conservative GOP voters by saying this, but in a state like Illinois, he’s better off staying as far away from Trump as possible. Kirk didn’t even attend the Republican National Convention, using the excuse that he’d rather stay in his home state and focus on campaigning. Duckworth has some baggage as well. Duckworth settled a lawsuit for $26,000 after wrongfully terminating an employee while working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. While Duckworth is a more conservative Democrat, she still is a Democrat, which will give her a large number of votes in a primarily blue state. Duckworth will win a majority of the urban vote, specifically with African-American voters, an area Kirk has never seemed to connect with. Ultimately, the election is going to come down to Kirk’s ability to get Democratic voters to side with him. In the polls, Kirk is currently down but he has a firm belief that large numbers of Republicans will come out to vote to ensure that the GOP retains its Senate majority. Kirk has become closer to the independent line during his time as Senator and he should be able to steal Democrat’s votes, as well as all the independents. This, combined with GOP support, will give him the victory.

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