CHICAGO (AP) — A top GOP fundraiser suggested Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk should abandon his quest for re-election, saying the Illinois Republican would likely lose, but then he quickly backtracked.
Businessman and former Illinois gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz told Crain's Chicago Business (http://bit.ly/1eydEFG ) he didn't believe Kirk could win in 2016 and said he "could cause collateral damage."
"I do not believe he will be a U.S. senator in 2017 and, as top of the ticket, he could cause collateral damage (to other Republican candidates). I call on him to step aside and allow other Republicans to seek his seat," Gidwitz said, according to the report.
Gidwitz later asked if he could retract the statements, saying he was "having second thoughts," though he acknowledged making the comments "thoughtfully," according to the report.
Kirk campaign spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement to The Associated Press that the senator and Gidwitz "have had a strained relationship for years."
"Ron's initial comments and subsequent retraction don't surprise us at all," Artl said.
Gidwitz told the Chicago Tribune after the Crain's report was published that Kirk "is the strongest candidate to win the seat" and the he fully supports his re-election.
In statements issued Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, expressed support for Kirk's re-election bid.
"Senator Mark Kirk has my unwavering support," Schneider said. "His record of independent leadership is exactly what Illinois needs."
Gidwitz told Crain's that "misstatements" by Kirk put the party in a "defensive position." Kirk recently drew attention after he joked over an open microphone that South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham was a "bro with no ho" because he was unmarried. Kirk, in opposing the multination Iran nuclear deal, also accused President Barack Obama of wanting Iran to get nuclear weapons.
Kirk apologized for the Graham comment. He attributed his Iran comments to being too carried away with his opposition to the deal.
Two-term U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and former federal prosecutor Andrea Zopp say they are seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2011.