Updated...WASHINGTON – Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., made it official on Monday and announced her 2016 Senate in a video, largely autobiographical, titled “Tammy Duckworth is running for the Senate.”
As first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war vet, elected to her second term last November, is looking in 2016 to clinch the Democratic nomination and take on Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill.
Kirk is a top target for the Senate Democrats as he seeks a second full term. Kirk joined the Senate after serving five terms in the House of Representatives. He was out of the Senate for almost a year as a result of a major stroke, returning to the Capitol in January, 2013.
Duckworth jumps in the Democratic primary as two other U.S. House Democrats from Illinois are considering a run in the March, 2016 Democratic primary: Rep. Bill Foster and Rep. Robin Kelly.
Once Duckworth announced, Rep. Cheri Bustos, who was also mulling a Senate bid, said in a statement she would not run. Spokesmen for Foster and Kelly told the Sun-Times they were still mulling a bid.
“Tammy Duckworth is my friend and colleague. She has given so much to our state and country. If you look at Tammy’s record of fighting for American manufacturing, for working men and women, and for our veterans, she clearly has the priorities we need in our next U.S. Senator,” Bustos said.
“I can’t see jumping into a race at this time when we already have such a strong fighter for working men and women and veterans. We’ve got a deep bench of strong potential candidates in Illinois, many of whom are friends and colleagues. I’m not making any formal endorsement at this time. But if you look at Tammy’s record of standing up for American manufacturing, for working women and their families, and for our veterans, it’s clear to me she fights for the things that are important to my constituents,” Bustos said.
Duckworth does not mention Kirk’s name in her announcement video.
Duckworth describers herself as a wife, a mom and a combat veteran in the video. As Duckworth starts her Senate campaign, she is nursing her baby daughter, Abigail, who was born last November.
In the video, Duckworth talks about her Blackhawk helicopter being shot down near Baghdad, taking her legs and damaging an arm.
In the wake of surviving combat, Duckworth said in the video, “I view my time now as a bonus, and that has allowed me to speak up without fear. So when Congress failed to pass a budget, I sponsored the no budget no pay act and led by example – returning more than ten thousand dollars of my own pay to taxpayers and cutting a over a hundred thousand from my office budget.
“I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first.”
She adds she will be visiting Illinois communities soon; Congress is on a two week break for the Easter and Passover holidays.
After running for the House in 2006 – and being defeated by Rep. Peter Roskam R-Ill., – then Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed her to be the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Director, where she served from 2006 through 2009. Duckworth was tapped by President Barack Obama to be an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009 through 2011, when she stepped down to run for the northwest suburban 8th congressional district House seat she now hold.
Republicans were quick to jump on the Blagojevich appointment, raising the temperature within minutes after the race officially started in trying to link her to the disgraced, now imprisoned former governor.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a statement after the Duckworth announcement, “Congresswoman Duckworth is a partisan politician who got her start in politics as a result of Rod Blagojevich’s political maneuvers,” said NRSC Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.
“Unlike Congresswoman Duckworth, who has put her extreme policies in Washington before Illinois families by voting with Nancy Pelosi 92% of the time, Mark Kirk has been an independent voice. Senator Kirk’s record of accomplishment and thoughtful independence will outshine any candidate that emerges from the Democrat primary in Illinois.”
Tim Schneider, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, in a similar statement said,
Chairman Tim Schneider issued the following statement said, “Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate. Duckworth represents the extreme wing of the Democrat party — voting with Nancy Pelosi 92% of the time. I have no doubt that next November, Illinois voters will re-elect Mark Kirk who has been a strong & independent voice for our state in Washington.”
For the record, Duckworth did not get her start in politics through Blagojevich. She was embraced first by Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., who met her while she was recovering in a military hospital in Washington. When she decided to run for the House in 2006, Durbin, then Sen. Barack Obama and then Rep. Rahm Emanuel, then head of the Democratic House political operations, helped launch her political career.
On Monday evening, Duckworth gathers some of her top donors at a home in the Hancock Center in Chicago to discuss securing the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill., who is seeking a second term.
In the letter to Duckworth’s best fundraisers about the Hancock event they were told, “contributions are encouraged but not required. We realize it is early in the election cycle, but we are asking our top supporters to consider a donation. The maximum an individual can give before March is $5,400. If Tammy decides to not to run for Senate, we will offer you a refund. If she does run, this support will be key in keeping up with Senator Kirk’s $2 million and counting campaign war-chest.”
Kirk campaign spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement that Kirk” has served as a voice for all the people of Illinois throughout his time in the Congress. He works across the aisle to take on the Veterans Administration for corruption and mistreatment of our returning heroes in Illinois, cut spending and block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Senator Kirk looks forward to a conversation on the issues that matter most to voters across the state including his proven record of thoughtful, independent leadership, and his work each and every day to serve Illinois families.”
Below, the video and text of the Duckworth Senate announcement….
Hi I’m Tammy Duckworth.
I’d like to tell you a little about myself.
I’m the daughter of a Marine, a wife, a new mom and a combat veteran.
When I was in High School, my dad lost his job at 55 and struggled with unemployment.
The bottom fell out for us. For a time, food stamps kept my brother and me from going hungry.
Graduating from college was a challenge, but I made it with help of loans, Pell grants and lots of waitressing.
That’s why I’ve always believed that if you don’t give up on yourself – our nation should never give up on you either.
Bryan and I met when we were both cadets in ROTC.
Later, I was given the opportunity to become a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and deployed to Iraq.
In 2004, while flying a combat mission near Bagdad, an RPG tore through our cockpit taking my legs and part of my arm with it.
The only reason I made it home was because of the heroism of my courageous buddies who risked their lives to save mine.
I view my time now as a bonus, and that has allowed me speak up without fear.
So when Congress failed to pass a budget, I sponsored the no budget no pay act and led by example – returning more than ten thousand dollars of my own pay to taxpayers and cutting a over a hundred thousand from my office budget.
I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first.
I believe that together we can build an America this is strong from the ground up.
We need more Pre-K.
We need college loans to be affordable.
And the engines of Illinois’ economy are small businesses and the middle-class – I believe we need tax cuts for them for a change.
I look forward to visiting your community soon, and if you elect me as Illinois’s Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity.