Sen. Mark Kirk nixes some traditional campaign debates

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Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. | Associated Press and Sun-Times photos

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, facing a tough re-election bid against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, is taking a pass on two televised Chicago debates and a Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting — three traditional staples in an election year.

Kirk won’t participate in the Sun-Times endorsement session, the ABC7 and League of Women Voters debate in Chicago or the WTTW “Chicago Tonight” debate, according to his campaign.

And according to Duckworth’s campaign, that means the traditional ABC7 debate will be canceled, without both of their participation. The Duckworth camp said they haven’t heard back from WTTW about whether that debate too will be canceled.

Instead, Kirk will participate in the Chicago Tribune editorial board endorsement session on Monday, as well as a University of Illinois at Springfield debate on Oct. 27. He’ll also take part in a new Latino forum to be broadcast on WGN-TV.

The Duckworth campaign is “considering” the Latino forum, but has not yet committed to it.

Kirk, who speaks Spanish, showed off his bilingualism in a TV ad that began airing on Telemundo and Univision in mid-September. In the ad, Kirk stress his opposition to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump saying in Spanish, “Yo no apoyo a Trump.”

Duckworth’s campaign initially said she’d participate in a University of Illinois at Springfield debate on Oct. 27; a City Club of Chicago and WTTW “Chicago Tonight” debate on Oct. 26 and a final debate on the ABC-7 debate with the League of Women Voters in Chicago.

In a statement, Kirk campaign manager Kevin Artl said Kirk has agreed to three debates, which Illinois voters will be able to see.

“Senator Kirk has agreed to three debates, in Chicago and in central Illinois, all of which will be televised or live streamed for Illinois voters. Additionally, Senator Kirk has participated in multiple editorial board visits across Illinois along with voter forums,” Artl said in a statement.

In his statement, Artl called Duckworth “one of the least effective members of Congress,” saying she’s missed 29 percent of votes in September.

Duckworth’s camp used Kirk’s absence at the debates as new campaign fodder, stirring up accusations the campaign makes in a new TV ad which targets Kirk for his past “lies” about his military statements.

“His decision to dodge long-established televised debates in the largest city in Illinois and the Chicago Sun-Times is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising,” Duckworth campaign spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement.

The Sun-Times also released a statement about Kirk’s absence: “We regret that Senator Kirk has passed on an invitation to meet with the editorial board. Whenever we’re working on an endorsement, we always look forward to meeting with the candidates face to face. There is no better way for us to become informed of their views and credentials,” Editorial page editor Tom McNamee said in a statement.

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