Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) stole incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R) seat in the Senate Tuesday, giving air to Democratic hopes of retaking the Senate.
The Democrat, an Iraq war veteran, was expected to defeat Kirk in the traditionally blue state. Kirk’s Senate seat was once held by President Obama, who stumped for Duckworth in Chicago with the hope that she could reclaim the spot for Democrats and, more importantly, tip the Senate majority to their party.
Duckworth has served in the House since 2013 and previously led the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Throughout the campaign, she withstood attacks on her tenure leading that department and about her thin legislative record.
Kirk didn’t fare well. He stumbled through a number of highly-publicized gaffes, including saying President Obama was acting like the “drug dealer in chief” earlier this fall. But comments he made during a debate in late October further sullied his cause. In response to a comment Duckworth made about her family’s military background, dating all the way back to the American Revolution, Kirk said: “I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
For context, The Post’s Mike DeBonis writes:
Duckworth’s mother, Lamai, is Thai, but her late father, Franklin, is a Marine Corps veteran whose family roots trace to before the American Revolution. Rep. Duckworth was severely wounded in the Iraq War, losing her legs while serving as a helicopter pilot. She did not respond to Kirk before the moderator moved on to the next question.
Democrats immediately called on Kirk to apologize, which he later did on Twitter, calling Duckworth an “American hero.”
Perhaps the most interesting element of this race had nothing to do with political platforms. Both candidates had overcome traumatic setbacks in their lifetimes; Duckworth lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm in 2004 when the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down, and Kirk has used a wheelchair since 2012 when he suffered and then recovered from a massive stroke.