In the wake of yesterday's bombshell arrest of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, folks on some of the Obama blogs and others are buzzing about whether a special election to fill the seat, which is being pushed by Senator Dick Durbin and others, might give moderate 10th District Congressman Republican Mark Kirk a window to successfully run against a crowded Dem field. Kirk would have to move quickly and hit the ground running, but no doubt would be supported by the national GOP who would see this as a hugely important psychological victory and momentum builder going into the 2010 mid-term elections.
Politico had this to say:
A well-connected GOP operative with ties to Illinois said Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is likely to consider running. Operatives from both parties agree Kirk would be a strong candidate.
Running from a North Shore House seat, Kirk would have political strength in the Chicago suburbs, said the operative. And having been challenged in consecutive cycles, he’s a formidable fundraiser, raising over $5 million for his House seat this cycle.
A naval officer, Kirk has a clean image with no ties to Springfield or the Chicago political machine.
Of course, the icing on the cake of all of this is that Kirk would not have to give up his congressional seat to run, which is not the case if he ran for senate or governor in 2010. Kirk, of course, has been mentioned as a possible 2010 senate contender, here and elsewhere.
But, what are the chances the stars will line up on this? As we speculated yesterday, will the special election (if that even happens) be 'open' or Dem-only? I confess to have no idea how that would work--but I'm not sure anyone else knows more at this point, either. While normally, I believe a special election is the same as a general, just held at a special time (see here), I would not put it past the IL General Assembly (under solid Dem control) to try to craft the legislation such that it protects the seat for Dem candidates only, if that's possible.
If it's a open election, would there be a primary among the Dems with Kirk the presumptive GOP nominee? Or would it be open to anyone who could meet the requirements to run, which might mean that Kirk stands alone with a crowded Dem field... paving the way to a real chance for a win? Or are we getting WAY too far ahead of ourselves? The other GOP candidates with an eye on state-wide office might just decide that they ought to be sitting in DC rather than battle Lisa Madigan for governor in 2010.
It's fun to speculate, as we have done before here, but Blago's arrest (coupled with the controversy over filling Obama's senate seat) opens up whole new vistas on the Illinois political landscape.
UPDATED x1: The Washington Post looks at the political fall-out and the senate issue, and states that:
Kirk, who has held the North Shore 10th district since 2000, is, without question, Republicans' strongest potential candidate. Kirk has proven his vote-getting ability in a swing district over the past few cycles, has a decidedly moderate voting record, and is among the strongest fundraisers among House GOPers. (Kirk raised $5.5 million for his 2008 race.) Kirk's problem would be the Republican primary as his record on social issues is anathema to the party's base. But, will conservatives forgo a chance to reclaim the seat by working to oust Kirk in a primary? Time will tell.
UPDATED x2: Roll Call is reporting that Congressman Mark Kirk indicated that he would be interested in running if there is a special election.
UPDATED x3: CQPolitics has a Fox News interview transcript with Mark Kirk in which Kirk says that he expects that "Senate Candidate #5" will also be indicted because the allegations show an "attempted bribery." ABC News is reporting that "Senate Candidate #5" is Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
UPDATED x4: Evening news wrap-up re Mark Kirk's possible run for Senate: Daily Herald, News-Sun and The Hotline. The liberals are truly scared that Kirk could cost them this (formerly) guaranteed Dem senate seat.