Senate candidate and real estate developer Patrick Hughes came out swinging at primary opponent Congressman Mark Kirk's liberal and centrist voting record in a conversation with TAS on Thursday. When comparing his conservative candidacy to that of Marco Rubio running against the more moderate Charlie Crist for Senate in Florida, Hughes said, "I believe that Mark Kirk is far more liberal on all the issues than Charlie Crist is, and would be much more likely to vote outside a Republican line of thinking, or even in many cases a moderate line of thinking, than Crist would."
Of particular concern was Kirk's "yes" vote on Cap and Trade in June, but Hughes also raised questions over Kirk's "F" rating from the NRA, his vote against a partial-birth abortion ban, his co-sponsoring of hate crimes law, his vote against the Iraq War surge, and the congressman's opposing a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
When discussing Cap and Trade, the issue he said drove him to run for Senate, Hughes argued that Kirk's vote has led to fewer capital investments due to price uncertainty that has resulted from the bill, and has in turn damaged job creation in Illinois -- a state with 11% unemployment. He also cited the direct impact it would have on coal miners, as Illinois is the 7th-most coal producing state in the country.
Hughes went a step further in his attacks on Kirk by arguing that his vote for Cap and Trade allowed the political capital that President Obama needed to pass healthcare -- saying that Obama's approval would have fallen if Cap and Trade had failed, which would make it more difficult for healthcare to pass with some Democrats. "I believe we would have been able to pull off those three Democrats (that would have resulted in the House Healthcare bill not passing) and probably more. I think, ultimately, Congressman Kirk's vote for Cap and Trade proved to be a vote in favor of the healthcare bill."
Congressman Kirk has since signed the Americans for Prosperity pledge not to raise any climate taxes, but Hughes argued that Kirk has no credibility on this issue since he had voted for Waxman-Markey just three months prior to signing. "His switch on that position shows his willingness to do whatever it takes to win the election," Hughes concluded.
On national security matters, Hughes supports the Afghan surge. He also spoke out against non-intervention conservatism. "I don't support non-interventionism at all. To me, non-interventionism is extremely dangerous in a way that economic protectionism is extremely dangerous," Hughes stated.
Despite the many left-of-center stances that Kirk has adopted, Hughes's campaign has not yet taken off when looking at most polls, or gained much traction in terms of endorsements or fundraising to reach the level of support that Kirk has received. While Hughes and others have compared the Illinois campaign to that of the more conservative Marco Rubio running against a more liberal Charlie Crist for Senate in Florida, the amount of national attention and support that Rubio has received -- endorsements from Club for Growth, DeMint, Huckabee, Karl Rove, and speaking at CPAC -- has not yet materialized for Hughes. Even Red State has indicated that it "would be fine" with Kirk, albeit maintaining some suspicion.
A large concern is that Illinois is viewed as a liberal state, and the seat that Hughes and Kirk are seeking was the one occupied by President Obama. Looking at Illinois's D+9 Cook Partisan Voter Index rating, which puts Illinois in a tie for 7th most Democratic, many have believed that the best way for Republicans to win is to put up a more centrist or even liberal candidate to run against front-runner state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Another problem that some critics see is that Hughes has never held elected office, and thus has no record to cite.
Hughes, however, citing the successful candidacy of Peter Fitzgerald's 1998 election run, argued that the key to winning was coalescing the conservative base in the primary rather than rushing to the center. He could be right about that, but he needs to coalesce the conservative base very quickly in order for us to see how it plays out. He has 47 days until the primary.