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Kirk says Illinois Republicans need to appeal to the middle to rise to the top

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk presents long delayed medals George Boesen ArlingtHeightsBuffalo Grove Park District Veteran's Day Celebration.  Boesen WWII

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk presents long delayed medals to George Boesen of Arlington Heightsat the Buffalo Grove Park District Veteran's Day Celebration. Boesen, a WWII veteran served in the Pacific theater and never received medals he earned with his service

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Updated: December 13, 2013 6:27AM

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., on Monday said the only hope for a Republican taking control of the governor’s mansion in Illinois is to remain moderate on social issues.

Kirk, the state’s ranking Republican, said he wouldn’t endorse in the four-way GOP primary for governor.

But he offered some advice.

“It’s pretty tough to win statewide as a Republican in Illinois. I would just urge be a moderate on the social issues,” he said.

That includes same-sex marriage, which the Illinois General Assembly just agreed to make legal last week. The bill now awaits signature from Gov. Pat Quinn, who said he would sign it.

“For me, I backed it,” Kirk said of gay marriage. “I applaud the state Legislature who just did that.”

There are four Republicans running in Illinois. Three — state Sen. Kirk Dillard, state Sen. Bill Brady and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford — have said they oppose same-sex marriage. Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner hasn’t said where he personally stands but he has recently said if he were governor, he would veto the measure that advanced — known as Senate Bill 10 —because he’s in favor of the matter going up for referendum.

For his part, Kirk has found political success — first as a congressman in the 10th congressional district and later as a U.S. senator — by remaining socially moderate. State Sen. Jim Oberweis — a Republican who leans farther right — has recently made some noise about a possible challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

“I would say that any statewide candidate has got to have moderate views to reflect the whole state,” says Kirk. “Many times when you look at the political spectrum you’ll see everything that goes way out to extreme right, way out to extreme left — the question the candidates have to ask themselves: ‘Who represents everybody in the middle?’ So you gotta represent the vast bulk of us who are not extreme right or extreme left.”

Kirk has stayed out of the gubernatorial Republican primary. “There’s no upside for me to get involved in a messy Republican primary for governor, and I won’t be getting involved in that race,” he said.

Kirk’s remarks came after a Veterans Day medal ceremony at Buffalo Grove High School on Monday. Kirk honored an 87-year-old Arlington Heights man who had never received his medals following a two-year stint in the Navy — including the rare occasion to serve in China.

George Boesen said seven decades after his service, Kirk helped him secure the four medals he never received.

Boesen was part of the Sixth Marine Division, which was scheduled to invade Japan. After Japan surrendered, Boesen, was sent to Tsingtao, China, in October of 1945. While stationed there, Boesen was part of the U.S. Navy effort to evacuate Chinese nationalists to Taiwan as Chinese forces advanced.

“It’s been 70 years since I’ve left the service,” Boesen said Monday. “It was wonderful to have him here and to be able to talk to him and thank him for all the work he’s done on this.”


Twitter: @natashakorecki

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