With the Illinois Republican Primary on February 2 rapidly approaching, a standing room only crowd of almost 600 tea partiers jam packed the Woodbine Golf Club for a Stop Mark Kirk Express rally. The rally, hosted by the Joliet Tax Day Tea Party and Homer/Lockport Tea Party, served as a meet and greet for Kirk's primary opponent – conservative candidate for U.S. Senate Patrick Hughes.

Joliet Tea Party organizer Tim Kraulidis explained to the crowd, "In this election, it's pretty clear who's who and what's what, folks...75% of Republicans say they're conservative. How is this guy (Kirk) polling ahead of real conservatives in this race?” Kraulidis said Hughes is the "one person able to carry our banner, to carry our cause and take the fight to the selected one. He's a true Reagan conservative, he's a true traditional candidate."  Patrick Hughes

The February 2 Illinois primary date is the earliest in the nation. It was moved up by Illinois Democrats to give then Senator Barack Obama an advantage on Super Tuesday in his primary fight against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In addition to battling the Chicago style politics of Illinois Democrats, Patrick Hughes is a threat to the establishment of the Republican party.  Hughes has been endorsed by tea party groups across the state, several pro-life groups and the Gun Owners of America. The Chairman of the IL GOP, Pat Brady, recently called opposition to Mark Kirk a “fringe movement.” 

I had a chance to sit down and talk with conservative candidate for U.S. Senate, Patrick Hughes, after the Stop Mark Kirk Express rally in Will County. We discussed how he plans on defeating Congressman Kirk in the upcoming February 2 Republican party, how he'll confront Kirk on the issues and how his race compares to high profile campaigns such as Marco Rubio in Florida and Scott Devore in California.
Q: The Illinois primary is approaching very quickly. What are you going to do between now and February 2 to convince those 60% who are undecided?
Hughes: Obviously there is a giant difference on policy between myself and Congressman Kirk. We’re advertising on Fox News statewide. We're raising additional dollars, we're going to continue to do that. We have a coordinator in 18 different regions throughout the state getting our vote out. County chair people who support us, township organizations who support us, tea party groups, 9/12 groups who support us throughout the state. Grassroots, bought media and earned media - that's how we're going to get it done. It's a tough task because the primary is early. But the difference on issues in a Republican primary between myself and Mark Kirk are so huge. His vote on Cap and Trade, I'm a fiscal conservative. His vote against the Iraq surge, I'm a supporter of our military. You know the issues, he's for partial birth abortion, he's in favor of hate crime legislation, he sponsors it. He get's an F from the NRA, he votes for bank bailouts. He's not even remotely a conservative. It's getting clear to me that he's to the left of many Democrats on all of these issues. When people know the difference between us side by side, they're going to vote for us. It's just a matter of getting our message out and that's what we're going to work on over the next weeks.
Q: You took a pledge to only serve two terms if elected, how will you get Mark Kirk to commit one way or another to that pledge?
Hughes: There is no doubt in my mind that he will not commit to a two term limit because I believe he is a life long politician and aspires to continue to be a politician which is why he's voted the way he's voted to try to keep himself in office. It's why he's tried to move to the right in this election because he wants to keep himself in office. So I don't have a lot of hope for Mark Kirk on term limits.

“I will bring Reagan conservative values to the U.S. Senate, to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.” Patrick Hughes

Q: How are you going to get Mark Kirk one on one in a public forum?
Hughes: January 14 the League of Women Voters is holding a debate and I plan to be debating Mark Kirk on January 14 on ABC 7 Chicago.
(Note: Mark Kirk no-showed this debate without any explanation.  I made repeated attempts to contact the Congressman to ask his reason for not participating in the debate, but received no response.)
Q: When you have a chance to confront Kirk face to face, what is the first question you're going to ask him?
Hughes: What is your real reason for voting for Cap and Trade? I've asked him that before at the editorial board meeting for the Chicago Tribune and other times on the stump while we've been competing with each other for endorsements. So far his explanation on voting for the largest tax increase in American history has changed two different times and neither one is true. The first reason was it was for our national security interests. But when I said you won't drill in ANWAR or off the coasts he backed off of that. Then he said it's in the interests of my district, so I polled his district - they don't want it either because it's not in the interests of his district. Regardless of whether he thinks it is or not the people don't want it and it's going to devastate Illinois entirely and his district will fall into that problem also.
Q: Nationally, people are hearing about Marco Rubio's campaign for U.S. Senate against Charlie Crist in Florida, they’re hearing about Chuck Devore in California, what do you want people to know about Pat Hughes against Mark Kirk in Illinois?
Hughes: The situations are similar but in fact even more dire. I think Congressman Kirk is the most liberal of the Republican Senate candidates running right now. What's worse is I think he has very little chance of winning the general election. He's abandoning his left wing base to try to beat me in the primary and they're leaving him, NARAL has left him a little bit, the Sierra Club has as well. On the right side, the base is never going to come out for him. Look at the event tonight, the events that you go to. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy can not put the coalition together to win. The coalition that I can put together is the Bob McDonnell coalition which is fiscal conservatives looking for reform in government and economic issues and the base. You have to have the base with you, independents, good government Democrats who are tired of Quinn, Blagojevich, Alexi Giannoulias, our $11 billion budget deficit, our 11% unemployment rate. They want new leadership. You know independents are being more and more fiscally conservative, and those are the people that we will reach out to. I think I'm the best candidate in the general. I think Congressman Kirk is so liberal on the most important issues. I want the people of the country to know and I want people of this state to know this is the first primary. Marco's primary is in August. They have to get in now to prevent this guy from becoming a Senator. I will bring Reagan conservative values to the U.S. Senate, to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.
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