Sen. Mark Kirk Urges GOP To “Never Give Up” At State Fair
By The Associated Press, with additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio
A year-and-a-half after his stroke, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) returned to central Illinois for the first time this week.
Members of his party gave him a warm welcome on Thursday at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair. Republican Day serves as the formal kickoff of the 2014 campaign and Kirk's official re-entry into the political arena.
He suffered partial paralysis as a result of the Jan. 2012 stroke, and his health kept him out of the Senate for about a year. As Kirk made his way to the podium with the help of a cane, the friendly audience waved yard signs with the phrase ‘Never Give Up’ printed on them.
Kirk encouraged fellow Illinois Republicans to look to his example and "never give up'' in their quest to rebuild the party. The party comes off major losses in 2012 as well as a recent gay marriage flap.
He said Republicans' stance on fiscally conservative values will help protect Illinois from fiscal insolvency.
"We are the fifth largest industrial and state and too much is - I think everybody should agree that our Republican fiscally conservative values are the way forward to make sure that we are the ones who are going to rescue Illinois," Kirk said. "We already know how to do it. With our economic policies we can do it."
Kirk’s Senate seat isn’t up for election again until 2016. His speech lasted about 90 seconds, while some candidates for governor went on for more than seven minutes.
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) also addressed supporters. He is making his third bid for governor after losing to Gov. Pat Quinn by less than 1 percent in 2010.
But Quinn cracked Wednesday that his win left Brady "looking for his running shoes.'' Brady told attendees Thursday that it was "game on'' for the Republican Party, pledging to finish the job he started.
State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) told attendees at the party's Thursday morning state central committee meeting in Springfield that he understands Illinois better than the three other primary candidates.
He said as governor, he would work with the legislature so the debt-laden state can begin to live within its means.
Dillard lost a 2010 primary challenge to Sen. Brady by 193 votes.
Republican Illinois Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford told attendees at Thursday's state central committee meeting that "a great part of success is just showing up.'' The former state senator from Chenoa said he has been to dinners, events and meetings throughout the state making connections with different communities and ethnic groups.
Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is promising to shake things up in Springfield. The Winnetka venture capitalist said he is not only fighting to win the party nomination and the governor's race, but wants to also help rebuild the beleaguered party. He showed up to Thursday's GOP state central committee meeting on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.