Illinois Senate Race Attracts Parties' Big Guns Candidates for the Illinois Senate seat will get help from prominent politicians in the closing days of the campaign. President Obama will campaign for Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, and Karl Rove will stump for Republican Mark Kirk.
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Illinois Senate Race Attracts Parties' Big Guns

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Illinois Senate Race Attracts Parties' Big Guns

Illinois Senate Race Attracts Parties' Big Guns

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Mary Louise Kelly.


NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: The fight for Illinois Senate seat has been defined by some pretty nasty charges. The Democrats' state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is being portrayed as a banker to the mob.


LOUISE KELLY: As a bank executive, he loaned $15.4 million to convicted mobster, Michael Jaws Jurango...

CORLEY: Giannoulias was vice president of the now-defunct Broadway Bank. He says mistakes were made at his family's failed bank, but he's an honest man. But he calls his opponent, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, a liar.

LOUISE KELLY: Mark Kirk is caught in a lie.

LOUISE KELLY: I was the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year.

LOUISE KELLY: He claimed a military award he actually never won.

CORLEY: In another turn this week, Giannoulias criticized Kirk for using a videoconference to raise money from American businessmen in China, the day before a congressional vote on overseas business.

LOUISE KELLY: To me, this is egregious and it can be called nothing other than an act of economic treason.

CORLEY: And Kirk shot back.

LOUISE KELLY: To accuse me, a 21-year Navy veteran, of being a traitor when he never served a day in uniform in his life, was beyond the pale.

CORLEY: University of Illinois, Springfield professor Charlie Wheeler says the nastiness of the Illinois Senate race stands out, even in a year filled with negative ads and harsh political attacks.

INSKEEP: If you would listen to what each says about the other, neither is fit to be dogcatcher, much less U.S. senator.

CORLEY: Illinois is a Democratic state, but Republicans - sensing a chance to seize a pivotal seat and to embarrass Democrats and the president - have poured millions of dollars into the race.

LOUISE KELLY: The race for the U.S. Senate...

CORLEY: During their last debate, Giannoulias and Kirk sparred over tax cuts, immigration and ways to fix a bleeding economy. Giannoulias blamed the exploding deficit and job losses on decisions Republicans made during the Bush years.

LOUISE KELLY: Congressman Kirk, for over the last decade, has been architect of some of these decisions. Why in the world do we send the same people who created this mess back to Washington, D.C.?

CORLEY: Kirk says, on Election Day, the economy will be the deciding factor and he supports renewing all Bush-era tax cuts.

LOUISE KELLY: In this race, I am the candidate that will vote to spend less, to borrow less and to tax less to help save our economy.

CORLEY: The latest poll show the Senate race is a toss-up, a high percentage of voters say they are undecided. But on a recent day in downtown Chicago, some had clearly made up their mind.

LOUISE KELLY: I'm going to vote for Mark Kirk because he's not part of the machine and I don't trust any politician.

CORLEY: Sitting nearby, Beverly Catherine(ph) says she's backing Giannoulias and found Kirk's revelation about his military career disappointing, since several of her family members serve.

LOUISE KELLY: I don't see how anybody that has been active in the military could forgive him for that.

CORLEY: Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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