Captain Kirk?

Six years ago, then-Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) exhibited tremendous moral courage by joining seven other Republicans in voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the bold bill to reduce carbon pollution via cap-and-trade. After being condemned by wingnut pundits for the vote, Kirk backtracked on climate action; shortly after being elected to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat in 2010, Kirk hilariously suggested that the failure of Al Gore’s marriage somehow disproved climate change.

Kirk’s up for re-election next year, and he knows that Illinois voters might not be inclined to vote for a perceived fossil-fuel lackey this time around, especially in light of new revelations about the extent of Big Oil’s backwardness. Shortly after an early-January controversy over his views on human-caused climate change, Kirk actually voted (along with four other Republicans) in favor of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) affirming that human activity was indeed affecting the atmosphere.

Presumably, this vote is one of the many factors motivating far-right former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) to consider a primary challenge to Kirk:

While a number of Democrats are mulling a 2016 campaign against Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, there has been no talk of a Republican challenger. Until now.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh told The Hill he’s “very seriously considering challenging” Kirk in a primary because he “has got to be challenged.”

Walsh, who in 2012 lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth (one of Kirk’s potential 2016 [Democratic] challengers), currently hosts a show on WIND-AM (560). He’s made a name for himself with controversial and racially-charged comments over the years…

Walsh said Kirk’s health after his 2012 stroke has scared off others from considering a run against him.

“I think because of his overall physical condition I don’t know anyone else would consider challenging him and that’s just plain wrong,” he told The Hill. “If you privately talk to people who would ordinarily primary him, they’d all say ‘he’s got no business running, but I can’t challenge him, look at who he is, people are going to say I’m mean spirited because I’m challenging him.’ Because of sympathy for Mark Kirk I don’t know of a serious candidate who would challenge him besides me.”

Will Kirk join Sen. Richard Lugar, Sen. Bob Bennett, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and Rep. Bob Inglis on the list of Republicans who lost primaries because they were seen as RINOs? Or can Kirk pull off the same political miracle Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. Walter Jones pulled off last year, when they survived ideologically charged primary challenges? How will the wingnuts react if Kirk has a stroke of luck this time?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.