As we approach Labor Day, the election season is starting to begin in earnest. And Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias is coming out swinging.
The Democrat had some pointed barbs for his Republican opponent, Mark Kirk, at a clean-energy event Monday, and attacked Kirk again Tuesday at the Rotary Club in Chicago.
Tuesday's event at the Millennium Park Garage was nominally about energy independence, as Giannoulias appeared alongside retired four-star general Wesley Clark at a new electric car charging station. But the opening remarks, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, set the tone for the event.
Of Gen. Clark, Giannoulias said, "He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Purple Heart, among a host of other citations. And unlike Congressman Kirk, he actually won these awards."
The comment was a jab at Kirk's repeated exaggerations and "misrememberings" about his military record. He often claimed to have won the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award, which doesn't exist, and described much of his combat experience in more colorful terms than the record suggests.
Meanwhile, Gen. Clark and Giannoulias both took Kirk to task for reversing his position on the House's cap-and-trade bill. He was one of the few Republicans in Congress to break ranks and support the measure, but changed his position to fall in with his party during the Senate primary.
On Tuesday, Giannoulias continued the offensive, attacking Kirk this time on economic issues. From the Chicago Tribune:
"It is a simple truth that under President George W. Bush, the national debt doubled," Giannoulias said in remarks prepared for his appearance before the Rotary Club of Chicago. "That's right. The entire debt run up from George Washington to Bill Clinton doubled in just eight years, and Congressman Kirk voted for every one of those debt-doubling budgets."
While Kirk and his fellow Republican candidates may be hoping to make the election a referendum on the unpopular Congress and a president with waning support, Giannoulias foreshadowed a strategy of painting Republicans as the party responsible for the present mess.
To both days of criticism, Kirk's campaign responded the same way: attacking Giannoulias's history at Broadway Bank and as the state's treasurer. The Giannoulias family bank's collapse cost the FDIC a total of $394 million, Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski repeated.
Kirk himself, meanwhile, was accepting the endorsement of Caterpillar chairman Jim Owens in Peoria on Tuesday.