The Lesser of Two Evils in Illinois


Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the special election to fill the remainder (two months) of Barack Obama's Senate seat can go on, Illinois voters will actually be voting for two Senate elections next week: one for the lame duck session of Congress that takes place after the November election, and then the regular election to fill the six-year term.
Race of the Day
Unfortunately for Illinois voters, the race between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk offers them a choice between candidates they probably do not like. After the Nevada Senate contest, this race is probably most emblematic of this election season's "lesser of two evils" problem. And unlike Nevada, Illinois does not have a "none of the above" option for voters to choose. With these two candidates, it is not surprising that voters can't seem to make up their minds. What is more surprising is this dead heat race is in Illinois, where the Democratic candidate should be a shoo-in for Obama's former Senate seat.
Congressman Mark Kirk is the Republican candidate for this seat and he has already cleverly told voters that he would be a check against Democrats passing bills during the lame duck session of Congress. Kirk is not completely trusted by conservatives, especially considering he voted for the House's cap-and-trade bill.

He has also run into his share of campaign troubles. First, he exaggerated a military award on his resume, for which he has apologized. He misled voters on precisely how he served while in the military. Then he lied and exaggerated about his past experiences as a teacher. And now Kirk, who went attended Winnetka's New Trier High School and represents Illinois's 10th district, is running ads to downstate voters implying that he has firm roots there while labeling Giannoulias a "Chicago Politician."

Well, at least he's not calling Giannoulias a mobster. Not only does Giannoulias have to overcome the freak show that is former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich and a horrible Democratic candidate for governor, he has to overcome his biggest hurdle: his association to his family's bank, Broadway Bank. His opponents have asked many questions about Broadway Bank. Did Giannoulias have a role in the mismanagement of the bank as it was going under? Did the bank lend money to known mobsters and did Giannoulias have any ties to them? And did he get favorable tax treatment while associated with the bank?  

On the issues, which have been overshadowed by the candidates' ethics, there are sharp differences on taxes between the two candidates. Giannoulias wants to end the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000; Kirk wants to extend them all for two years. Giannoulias wants to extend the estate tax, Kirk wants to end it.

Most polls, particularly those done by National Journal, have shown that while voters are fed up with Democrats, they distrust Republicans even more. The Illinois race is emblematic of this wideranging disgust as voters will probably go to the polls, hold their noses, and vote--if they vote at all.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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