03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Democratic Senate Candidates Blast Kirk Over Health Care Comment

Three Democratic U.S. Senate candidates jumped all over Republican rival Mark Kirk Tuesday after the North Shore congressmen said voting for the Obama administration's health care reform effort would endanger vulnerable Democrats.

In a sign of how the national health care reform debate is affecting local Senate races, former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and former Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Robinson Jackson all released blistering statements in response to Kirk's suggestion that voting for health care reform is politically toxic.

"Several dozen House Democrats risk losing their jobs if they vote for reform," Kirk told Politico Tuesday, saying that Republicans were comfortable as the party of 'no' because they sense voters will punish Democrats for the bill in the mid-term elections.

The Democrats charged Kirk with putting politics above people's health.

"Mark Kirk is aiding and abetting the insurance companies who are trying to stop health care reform," Hoffman said in a statement. "It's shameful. Illinois families who have lost their jobs and health care deserve better. Kirk continues to play politics on this critical issue."

Minutes later, the Giannoulias campaign sounded off.

"It's sad that Congressman Kirk would rather win an election than lower the cost of health care for Illinois families, but with these words and ten years of voting with big drug and insurance companies to block reform, Congressman Kirk has made it clear he puts politics ahead of our families," Giannoulias said in a statement.

"Mark Kirk's statement to shows he is first and foremost focused on political gain at the expense of sound policy and the needs of Illinois families," the Jackson campaign said in its statement. "The time is long past to put people before politics in Illinois. Mark Kirk needs to think more about policy and what's good for his constituents and less about maneuvering for mere political gain."

Kirk released his own national reform plan in August that he said would prevent government interference in health care and cut costs by limiting medical malpractice suits. He gave no specifics, though, on how much it would cost or save.

Kirk and Giannoulias are neck-and-neck in fundraising and popular support. A Rasmussen poll released Monday found the two frontrunners in a dead heat, and both have raised more than $2 million toward their runs.

Hoffman trails Giannoulias in fundraising and name recognition. In a hypothetical head-to-head with Kirk, Hoffman trails by 10 percentage points, 43 percent to 33 percent. Jackson trails Kirk by just 4 points in Rasmussen's hypothetical matchup, 43 percent to 39 percent.

Democrat Jacob Meister and Republican Patrick Hughes are also seeking to replace Roland Burris in President Obama's old Senate seat.