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Bustos won't run for Senate, praises Duckworth

CHICAGO – U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos says she’s decided not to challenge Republican Mark Kirk for his U.S. Senate seat.

Bustos had been mulling a run, but said Monday that she would not run now that U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Duckworth announced her candidacy in a largely autobiographical video posted Monday to her campaign website. She is the first major candidate to announce a challenge to Kirk, a first-term Republican.

Bustos says she’s not formally endorsing anyone yet, but praised Duckworth’s record and called her a “strong fighter for working men and women and veterans.”

Other Democrats who have indicated interest in running in 2016 include U.S. Reps. Bill Foster and Robin Kelly. Republicans mulling a run include former tea party U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh.

The matchup in Democrat-friendly Illinois could be one of the most competitive nationwide as Democrats battle to regain Senate control.

Duckworth, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates, is serving a second term in Illinois’ 8th District, which covers suburbs west and northwest of Chicago. She is an Iraq war veteran who served as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Barack Obama.

Previously, she was director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs after an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2006. Kirk, who won the Senate seat held by Obama in 2010, said through a spokesman Monday that he had served as a “voice for all the people of Illinois.”

“Sen. Kirk looks forward to a conversation on the issues that matter most to voters across the state, including his proven record of thoughtful, independent leadership, and his work each and every day to serve Illinois families,” Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said. He also noted Kirk’s work on cutting spending and taking on the “Veterans Administration for corruption.”

Kirk was previously a five-term U.S. congressman representing Chicago’s northern suburbs. In 2012, he suffered a major stroke and underwent many grueling months of recovery in learning how to walk and speak, which raised questions about whether he would seek a second term.

Kirk has said he thinks the stroke raised his profile and that his disability, for which he has to rely on a cane or wheelchair at times, gives him a unique advantage.

Duckworth has also overcome major physical setbacks. In 2004, she lost both legs and part of an arm after the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in Iraq. She also relies on crutches or a wheelchair at times.

“I view my time now as a bonus, and that has allowed me to speak up without fear,” she says in the video, in which also describes herself as a wife, a new mom, and the daughter of a Marine.

She hinted at her platform, mentioning more pre-kindergarten, affordable college loans, and a focus on small businesses.

Republicans were quick to pounce on Duckworth’s announcement, with Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider accusing her in a statement of being a “partisan politician” and “protege” of imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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