12/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ditka Endorses Hughes Over Kirk In Senate Race

Da Coach isn't backing the favorite.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, a longtime conservative who stumped with Sara Palin during the 2008 presidential election, has endorsed little-known developer Patrick Hughes over GOP frontrunner Mark Kirk in the race for the U.S. Senate.

"I pledge all my support to Patrick Hughes and I will help him in any way I can," Ditka said in a statement released Thursday by the Hughes campaign. "Patrick Hughes stands for the same mainstream values that Mike Ditka stands for. Patrick Hughes knows who he is and what he believes. He knows that Washington is not the answer to all of our problems today."

Ditka's endorsement is a clear snub of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the favorite for the Republican nomination. The North Shore Congressman has come under fire from the right for not being conservative enough.