Illinois Senate seat now also a special election

Tea Party activists and conservative Republicans have offered lukewarm support for Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the US Senate race in Illinois thus far, less than enthused at his moderate policy stances over the years in the House.  A federal court may give them more motivation to get enthusiastic about Kirk in his fight against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for Barack Obama’s old seat.  Governor Pat Quinn complied with a court order to declare a special election for the two months remaining on Obama’s old Senate term on the same ballot as the normal Senate election — which means one of the two candidates will take office for the lame-duck session:

Illinois voters will cast two votes for U.S. Senate on Nov. 2 — one for a senator who will serve 60 days and the other for one who will serve a six-year term — under an order issued Thursday by Gov. Pat Quinn as required by the federal courts.

Yet to be finalized is who the candidates will be for the short-term vacancy that falls between Nov. 3, the day after the election, and Jan. 3, when the new Congress is inaugurated. However, a federal judge overseeing the matter indicated Thursday that appointed U.S. Sen. Roland Burris won’t be eligible for the special election to finish out the term of the seat once held by President Barack Obama.

U.S. District Judge John F. Grady said he is prepared to issue a formal ruling in the next few days that would automatically place on the ballot major party contenders who won nomination in the Feb. 2 primary as candidates for the short-term vacancy. That means Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Republican Mark Kirk and Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones would appear twice for election.

This somewhat mirrors the situation in Delaware with the seat vacated by Joe Biden, who ran for re-election in 2008 simultaneously with his VP bid for Obama.  The election in Delaware is strictly a special election to fill the remaining two years and two months of Biden’s term.  Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell are vying for the Republican nomination, and O’Donnell is making the lame-duck session an issue, claiming that Castle may be too liberal to be trusted to keep Democrats from forcing the remainder of their agenda during the last two months of the year.

In Illinois, the primary is already over, so that tension doesn’t exist.  But it does create more urgency for Republicans to push Kirk across the finish line.  First, while Kirk has his problems, Giannoulias would be exponentially worse, especially since he would support the Obama agenda without question once elected.  The immediate concern of the lame-duck session would become moot with a Kirk victory, however, as it would give Republicans 42 votes, more than enough to block card check, cap-and-trade, and any other unpopular part of Harry Reid’s agenda after the election.

Will this development give activists enough motivation to get in line behind Kirk?