Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) proclaimed his strong support of Israel Monday as he entered the Illinois U.S. Senate race.
"And to supporters of America’s strongest friend in the Middle East – Israel’s greatest ally in Washington will be Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois," said Kirk in his announcement speech.
Kirk is not Jewish, but is the subject of a lot of attention in the Jewish political world because he represents the heavily Jewish northern suburbs of Chicago, and he’s seen as a leader on pro-Israel issues and close to AIPAC. He’s also viewed by many as a moderate on a number of domestic issues, although Jewish Democrats argue that he’s not nearly as moderate as some think.
The Senate seat, which was held by Barack Obama before he became president, will be open in 2010 after Roland Burris — the controversial appointee of now-ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) — decided not to run. The Republican field is clear for Kirk, while the likely Democrat to take him on is Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.