Five Senate races to watch

3. Illinois: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R)

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    Both Rep. Mark Kirk (left) and Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias wanted to run for Senate as clean-slate candidates, giving the state a break from the corruption of the past few years. But both have been dogged by ethical questions.
    AP and Reuters
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Mr. Giannoulias and Mr. Kirk cast themselves as squeaky-clean candidates to appeal to voters, after current Sen. Roland Burris (D) was tainted by allegations of corruption related to his appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That rosy narrative evaporated quickly. Giannoulias has been bogged down by revelations that the bank owned by his family – Broadway Bank, since taken into receivership by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – made irresponsible loans, including several to infamous former Democratic donor (and later, convicted criminal) Tony Rezko.

Kirk, meanwhile, has had problems due to a series of embellishments discovered in his career history, from military awards and combat experience to declared experience as a teacher. He also had to abandon support for cap and trade legislation (Kirk was one of eight House Republicans to vote for the bill) during the Republican primary, opening him to charges of “flip-flopping.” Giannoulias and Kirk are tied in the polls, with about 20 percent of Illinois voters yet to pick a candidate.

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