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Will the real Mark Kirk stand up for Illinois-

It's time for the re-emergence of the real Mark Kirk. For nearly a decade, that Mark Kirk made Illinois proud. As a congressman from Chicago's North Shore, Kirk ably served Illinois as a thoughtful, moderate and bipartisan voice, voting where his research and conscience took him.

But during his successful run for the Senate, that Kirk was in hiding, revealing himself only occasionally.

The following self-assessment, offered by Kirk during a recent debate with his opponent Alexi Giannoulias, nicely sums up the man Illinois had come to respect:

"I am a fiscal conservative, a social moderate, and a national security hawk; a centrist, who will help bring thoughtful, independent leadership to Illinois and the United States Senate."

During much of his campaign, Kirk failed to live those words. He tacked right -- a bow to political realities -- repudiating controversial votes on some issues, such as cap-and-trade energy legislation, and refusing to take a stand on too many other issues, such as immigration reform.

But with a long and mostly campaign-free six-year Senate term ahead of him, Kirk can finally come home -- be that thoughtful moderate again. And Illinois, we hope, will welcome his return.

Kirk was always, without question, the candidate with the better record of public service. If he had not succumbed to an inexplicable urge to embellish that record, this might not have been a tight race.

As it was, plenty of voters went for Kirk because they suspected he was still more independent than he was letting on.

A moderate approach suits Illinois better. While Democrats in other states were swept away in Tuesday's so-called Republican tsunami, Illinois voters held back. The state General Assembly remains in Democratic hands. The governor's office may as well.

We know Kirk likely will cast more conservative votes early on -- votes we oppose -- on repealing Obama's health-care reforms, for example, and extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He has to. He ran on those issues.

But before too long, we hope to see Kirk return to his more thoughtful and moderate ways.

It's right for Mark Kirk, right for Illinois and right for a country yearning for one more voice of reason.