Illinois voters in this year’s Senate race are choosing between incumbent Mark Kirk and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from the 8th district. And it could be the race to give Democrats the majority.
|Rep. Tammy Duckworth is running in a closely-watched race for the Senate against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk.
The IBEW has endorsed Duckworth, said Shad Etchason, the state political coordinator. Members will be phone banking and canvassing for her, as well as participating in events around the state, Etchason said.
“I want to make it clear that I stand with labor, and I stand with the right of Americans to organize,” Duckworth said at an event in March, reported the Labor Tribune, a regional publication. The event was held at the training center of the Steamfitters Local 439 where Duckworth opened her regional headquarters.
Duckworth and fellow candidate Rep. Cheri Bustos attended a meet-and-greet in July hosted by Peoria, Ill., Local 34 and other trades, as well as the Knox County Democrats.
“She’s a great candidate,” said Jeremy Shultz, a Local 34 organizer. “She definitely understands labor and what our needs are.”
On Aug. 26, members of West Frankfort, Ill., Local 702 attended multiple events supporting Duckworth, including marching in the annual twilight parade that kicks off the state fair. More than 500 members and their families participated in the parade and rally that featured Duckworth as the guest speaker.
“She’s the real deal,” said Local 702 Business Manager Steve Hughart. “It comes from the heart.”
Local 702 members are phone banking every Tuesday and walking on weekends. Hughart also wrote a letter that was mailed to supporters encouraging early voting in support of Duckworth.
When House Republicans tried to effectively shut down the NLRB in 2013, Duckworth voted against it. She also voted against a bill to deny working people overtime pay and in favor of protecting Davis-Bacon. Duckworth also voted against a bill that would undermine workplace protections and another that could put individual retirement accounts at risk.
The congresswoman spoke on the floor of the House in 2015 in favor of extending unemployment benefits. She told the story of a constituent who lost her manufacturing job and despite applying to over 200 want ads, could not find work. Duckworth also voted for an amendment that would prohibit funds from being used on contracts that violate fair labor standards.
A member of the Illinois Army National Guard and a decorated Iraq war veteran, Duckworth was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. When her helicopter was hit, she lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm. After recovering, she became an advocate for her fellow soldiers.
While serving as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2009, she worked to create a tax credit for employers who hired veterans, and while in the House, introduced legislation to help veterans find jobs when they return home.
Duckworth opposes the TPP, an international trade deal between the U.S. and 12 other Pacific-rim countries that would weaken labor protections. She also voted against authorizing a fast track of the bill. By allowing a fast track, Congress will not be able to amend or filibuster the trade agreement, only vote for or against it.
“I represent more manufacturers than any other member of the Illinois delegation and I know the benefits of trade. But I’ve seen too many past agreements fail to deliver on their promises, hurting American businesses and workers,” she said in an email that was shared with the blog Daily Kos.
Kirk however, supports the TPP and voted to fast track it.
Widely considered to be a moderate, Kirk has a 23 percent lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO; Duckworth scores a 97 percent. Kirk voted against the Bring Home Jobs Act, a bill to incentivize businesses to bring foreign job back to U.S. shores, and against the nomination of Thomas Perez for labor secretary. In office for three years, Perez has led a department that has enacted a number of rules and regulations that benefit working people.
Kirk also voted to strip collective bargaining rights from TSA employees and against a bill that would have created as many as 2 million new jobs, protected unemployment insurance benefits and invested in infrastructure repair.
Fivethirtyeight.com, a site focusing on data analysis, says this seat is one of the two most likely to flip Democrat. Roll Call, a publication focusing on U.S. politics and Capitol Hill, rates it “Leans Democratic.” The Cook Political Report, a site that rates U.S. political races, rates it a “tossup.”