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U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, left, and Sen. Mark Kirk greet supporters at campaign events on Nov. 6, 2016. (Michael Tercha)

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, left, and Sen. Mark Kirk greet supporters at campaign events on Nov. 6, 2016. (Michael Tercha)

By Allison Cho, Walter Payton

Maybe it’s the constant stream of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton flowing from every news source imaginable, but there is a common misconception that the presidential election is more important, perhaps even solely important. That’s definitely not the case. Alongside Clinton and Trump’s fight for presidency are the multitude of smaller elections seeking to tip the scales in their party’s favor.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are the two chambers of Congress, which plays a crucial role in the checks and balances system. This includes the right to veto any and all prepositions by the President. That’s right. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, Congress can prevent any legislation she supports from passing. It’s a highly coveted power that neither Democrats nor Republicans want to lose, including Illinois’ Senator Mark Kirk and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.

Kirk and Duckworth’s struggle for power has not been the calmest. While Kirk’s victory would ensure more Republican control of the Senate, he has strived to capture the votes of Democrats, even speaking out against Donald Trump on multiple occasions. On the other hand, Duckworth is a key asset to keeping the Senate under Democratic control and has seldom strayed from her party’s positions. Born in Thailand, she lost both legs in 2004 while serving in Iraq, and her father was a World War II veteran.

Kirk’s biggest loss has been the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in America, and Americans for Responsible Solutions, a pro-gun control organization, two sponsors in the earlier stages of his campaign. However, they decided to divert their attentions to Duckworth instead after Kirk made an inappropriate comment about her Thai heritage during a debate. After hearing her speak about her family’s military service since the American Revolution, he stated: “I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.” Ironically, his own campaign website had misled viewers to believe he served in the Iraq War; in actuality, he was in the US as part of the Navy. Although he later apologized for his statement against Duckworth, this left a permanent dent on his public image.

Duckworth hasn’t had such a large blow to her campaign, but did have an extended lawsuit where she was sued by two employees of Anna Veterans Home, where she previously worked as director of the veterans department. According to an article by the Chicago Sun Times, the employees filed complaints against their boss and “Duckworth…visited the Anna facility and terminated one of them, Christine Butler, an executive secretary at the home, for being “insubordinate” to Simms and herself.” The case was eventually settled for $26,000.

Drama and controversies aside, Duckworth and Kirk share and differ on many issues. Kirk sports his Small Business Bill of Rights, which aids smaller businesses and is intended to create more jobs. Likewise, Duckworth wholeheartedly supports legislation that helps smaller businesses and seeks ways to help the unemployed become qualified for more jobs.

In terms of foreign policy, Kirk believes in the fight against Al Qaeda, but also wants to work against the terrorism within the US. He also aims to create stronger relationships between the US and other countries, thus increasing trade and national security. Contrarily, Duckworth wants to create a more powerful American military and influence, which includes allowing American citizens to have a voice in what happens with the military; she also mentions being more careful with government spending on defense and using that money toward more productive programs.

Whether Illinoisans vote for Duckworth or Kirk, one thing is for sure: November 8th, one of the most important dates of 2016 for American politics, does not end with the presidential election.

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