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In Illinois, it's Kirk (R) vs Giannoulias (D) for Obama's former Senate seat

February 2, 2010 |  8:56 pm

The stage is now set in President Obama's adopted home state of Illinois for some actual bipartisan competition for the Senate seat he used to occupy.

Republican Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois

Bye-bye, Burris, as in Roland, the Democrat who was appointed to the seat by bye-bye Blagojevich, as in Rod, the Democratic governor who was impeached for allegedly trying to auction off said nomination to fill bye-bye Barack's briefly-held Senate chair.

The victor in the state's once all-important Democratic primary tonight was State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

The victor in the Republican primary going-away was Rep. Mark Kirk of the 10th District, an area once represented by John Porter and someone named Donald Rumsfeld.

Voter turnout was light on a snowy day, barely 30% state officials estimated.

A repudiation of the president's party in the Land of Lincoln come November would be even more embarrassing than the repudiation of the president's party in Massachusetts recently. There, Bay State voters elected Scott Brown as the first GOP senator from there since 1972, even before Richard Nixon admitted he was not a crook.

On the gubernatorial side, the races were much closer. Former Lieut. Gov. Pat Quinn, who inherited the job upon Blago's ouster, was holding a narrow primary lead over Dan Hynes, the state comptroller.

(UPDATE: Thursday: Hynes conceded today to Quinn. The Republican gubernatorial remains undecided with Brady leading Dillard by only 500 votes.)

The three-way Republican race was too close to call among two state senators -- Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard -- and state party chair Andy McKenna.

In the Senate race, both Kirk and Giannoulias face real challenges.

The five-term Kirk is a 50-year-old Republican who was born in Champaign but grew up in Chicago's affluent northern suburbs that he now represents in Illionois' 10th District. Illinois Democrat state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias

Kirk must harness the widespread anti-incumbent mood and convince Republican and independent voters statewide to pay more attention to his conservative, strong defense voting record and less to the socially moderate votes that served him well along the Lake Michigan beachfront.

Proving one's true conservative credentials and dodging any taint of that new four-letter word -- RINO -- is fast becoming a crucial GOP litmus test across the country this year. (See The Ticket's Tuesday Florida Senate race item here.) Kirk's impressive fundraising skills will serve him well.

From Washington, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele chimed in late tonight: "With its unemployment rate among the worst in the nation, Illinois can no longer afford the binge spending and failed leadership of entrenched Democrats."

Giannoulias will have the full-power of Chicago's vaunted Democratic machine backing him.

But he comes from a family involved in a business that has become another four-letter word in the last year: bank. And the Giannoulias family's Broadway Bank has had some trouble with regulators that party opponents used effectively against him.

Kirk may also mention this.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Kirk's office (top); Giannoulias' office (bottom).

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