Republican Mark Kirk beat Alexi Giannoulias for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, dealing a defeat to President Barack Obama, who had placed the political weight of his administration behind the Democrat seeking his former seat.
Kirk had 48 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Giannoulias with 97 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press reported in projecting the Republican pickup of the seat. Kirk’s win followed one of the nation’s most bitter Senate contests this year.
Giannoulias faced the fallout from the failure in April of a bank his family ran, while Kirk was forced to apologize for exaggerating his military and personal biography.
Obama appeared with Giannoulias in Chicago the weekend before yesterday’s election, his third trip in 2010 to try to boost his campaign.
Since June, Giannoulias had also received fundraising visits from first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and 2008 presidential campaign manager David Plouffe.
Giannoulias, 34, is the Illinois state treasurer and an occasional Obama basketball buddy; Kirk, 51, is a five-term congressman.
Problems associated with Broadway Bank, the now-defunct institution Giannoulias’s family operated, were among the reasons the White House tried to persuade Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to run for the Senate seat.
“Broadway Bank provided an extraordinary amount of loan capital, millions of dollars, to mob figures and convicted felons, after they had been convicted,” Kirk said during an Oct. 10 debate. “I don’t have experience in loaning money to mob figures. I don’t have experience in reckless loans to commercial real estate and brokered hot-money deposits leading to a collapse of the bank.”
Giannoulias said he didn’t know the full backgrounds of some of those who received bank loans. He also said he left the troubled bank in late 2005, although his tax documents showed he claimed to have worked at least 500 hours there in 2006, a time when loans were made to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who was later convicted of influence peddling, and to a family later accused of having connections to organized crime.
The Illinois race was to replace Senator Roland Burris, a Democrat appointed by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to complete Obama’s term after the 2008 presidential election.