By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke last year, hopes to return to Washington in January, his spokesman said on Monday.
Kirk, 53, won President Barack Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is not up for election this year.
Kirk first made the comments on Sunday to a Chicago TV station at a fund-raiser for the clinic where he is receiving out-patient treatment. The event was Kirk's first public appearance since he suffered a stroke last January.
According to the local NBC affiliate, Kirk, 53, told its reporter covering the stair-climbing fund-raiser that his next goal was to climb the stairs of Capitol Hill when the new Senate convenes in January.
The station did not air nor post a clip of Kirk making the comments. But Erin Athas, Kirk's press secretary, confirmed to Reuters on Monday that his boss "was hoping to return in January."
Kirk, who beat former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to win Obama's Senate seat in 2010, is one of two Illinois lawmakers sent to Washington who have been sidelined by illness this year.
U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat, has been on medical leave from the House since June and been admitted twice in recent months to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar disorder.
Last month, Illinois congressman Danny Davis told Reuters he was unsure whether Jackson, who is expected to easily win re-election on Tuesday, would ever return to Congress.
Jackson, 47, has served in the House of Representatives since 1995.
In addition to his health issues, Jackson has been the subject of a House ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered by a supporter to then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008.
The alleged bribe was intended to entice Blagojevich into appointing Jackson to Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who was convicted on corruption charges.
In the end, Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Obama's vacancy until the November 2010 election, when Burris chose not to run for re-election and Kirk beat Giannoulias in the race for the open seat.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)