The Latest: Duckworth, Kirk debate college affordability

October 3, 2016 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. Senate debate between Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth are disagreeing over how to make college more affordable.

The candidates met Monday before the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Duckworth says many graduates are weighed down by huge debt and they should be allowed to refinance to get a lower interest rate. She also supports free community college, though she couldn’t say how much that would cost.


Duckworth says that to start, lawmakers should encourage companies that receive federal contracts to fund programs that train their workers.

Kirk says the U.S. can’t afford free community college. He says voters must elect lawmakers “that don’t promise more free stuff.”

Kirk says the best answer is to allow parents to make tax-free contributions to a college funding plan for their kids.


11:40 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk are debating how best to address gun violence, particularly in Chicago.

The candidates met Monday before the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Kirk has broken with his party to back gun control measures in the past and says he’s pushing bipartisan legislation to stop gun shops from selling to traffickers.

Duckworth says gun legislation is important. She says it’s also critical to create jobs in impoverished neighborhoods and ensure the infrastructure exists so people can get to those jobs. She also says more needs to be done to improve relations between police and the community.

Chicago has seen shootings and homicides skyrocket this year.

Duckworth is looking to unseat Kirk in a race that will help determine control of the U.S. Senate.


9:15 a.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk are set to debate Monday for the first time in a race that will help decide whether Democrats retake control of the Senate.

Kirk, a first-term senator from Highland Park, is seen as one of the Senate’s most endangered Republican incumbents, largely because Illinois is a left-leaning state where voters tend to elect Democrats in statewide contests, particularly in presidential election years.

The retired Navy intelligence officer has been attacking Duckworth’s tenure at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, where she served as director from 2006 to 2009 after a failed bid for Congress.

Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is in her second term. Aside from the state VA stint, she was assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009 to 2011. She has criticized Kirk’s positions on economic issues, such as his support for a 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal widely opposed by labor unions.


Both candidates’ campaigns have used compelling personal stories to connect with voters. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs after her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004. Kirk suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2012 and underwent months of rehabilitation before returning to Congress in 2013.

Monday’s meeting before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, which will be livestreamed on the newspaper’s website, may be the first of two face-to-face meetings. The candidates are set to debate Oct. 27 in Springfield but have been unable to agree to a schedule that would include a joint televised debate in the Chicago media market — highly unusual in for a U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Democrats must pick up four or five Senate seats to win back the majority in November, depending on which party wins the White House and can send the vice president to break a tie. Republicans are defending 24 seats this cycle to Democrats’ 10.

Also vying for the seat are Libertarian candidate Kenton McMillen and Green Party candidate Scott Summers.