Metro-East News

Brendan Kelly criticizes Senator Kirk for votes on veterans-related bills

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, a Democrat, on Tuesday called Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s leadership on veterans issues inconsistent and inadequate.

Kelly, who spent four years in the Navy, emphasized during the conference call, he wasn’t speaking in any official capacity, and was using his personal phone during the call. He added he was speaking as a veteran who comes from a family of veterans.

The conference call, came in response to Kirk’s campaign response to a VoteVets.org television advertisement, which criticized the senator’s votes on veterans benefits and equipment for military personnel.

“(He) let veterans down,” Kelly said.

Kirk’s senate re-election campaign called the advertisement blatantly false and dishonest and was being pushed by U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, and a super-PAC supporting her.

This isn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding or misspoken words or a matter of interpretation, it’s a pattern. Instead of just making it right with service members and veterans like myself, the Kirk campaign has chosen to hype and blur and misrepresent the facts and the record.

St. Clair County State’s attorney

Kelly, who said he voted for Kirk in 2010, but won’t this year, spoke about how Kirk voted against funding that would have helped pay for medical screenings as well as money to repair and replace damaged equipment for military personnel.

Kelly cited a Washington Post analysis that said Kirk voted against a bill in 2003 that would have helped pay for the medical and dental screening of military reservists, family assistance centers, pre-paid phone cards for the troops in Iraq, the transportation of troops on rest-and-relaxation leave, the construction of more water treatment and power plants for the deployed troops, and for the repair and replacement of damaged equipment.

“This isn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding or misspoken words or a matter of interpretation, it’s a pattern,” Kelly said. “Instead of just making it right with service members and veterans like myself, the Kirk campaign has chosen to hype and blur and misrepresent the facts and the record.”

Kelly recently introduced Duckworth at a St. Clair County Democratic Party event.

In a response to the Vote Vets advertisement, Kirk’s campaign said the senator did vote for $79.1 billion for pensions and benefits, in a separate bill.

The Duckworth ad has been proven to be completely false and dishonest, only meant to distract voters from the fact that in April, U.S. Rep. Duckworth is going on trial to face charges that she attempted to silence Veterans' Affairs whistleblowers who were only trying to stop the abuse and mistreatment of Illinois veterans.

Eleni Demertzis, director of communications for the Kirk for Senate campaign

Kirk’s campaign added that the senator did vote to expand veteran’s benefits in an omnibus bill.

The campaign said a Kirk vote referenced in the ad was on legislation that would have taken money away from Iraq reconstruction to help with quality of life enhancements for service members and not on fixing equipment for soldier safety.

"The Duckworth ad has been proven to be completely false and dishonest, only meant to distract voters from the fact that in April, U.S. Rep. Duckworth is going on trial to face charges that she attempted to silence Veterans' Affairs whistleblowers who were only trying to stop the abuse and mistreatment of Illinois veterans," Eleni Demertzis, director of communications for the Kirk for Senate campaign, said in a statement, referring to a pending civil lawsuit.

Kirk does have a primary challenge from James Marter of Oswego, and Duckworth is hoping to secure the Democratic nomination. She is facing off against Andrea Zopp of Chicago and State Sen. Napoleon Harris of Harvey.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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