Duckworth unseats Kirk in Illinois Senate race
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Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth is projected to win the Illinois Senate race, bolstering her party's chances of retaking the upper chamber. 

The state, which often goes blue in presidential election years, has largely been seen as a safe bet for Democrats since the beginning of the cycle.

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Heading into Election Day, the congresswoman and veteran had an iron grip on the race, leading incumbent GOP Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE by a double-digit average, according to RealClearPolitics.

Kirk worked hard to try to separate himself early from GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE, who is projected to lose Illinois handily. Kirk was the first senator up for reelection to say he would not support Trump after the real estate mogul questioned a federal judge's impartiality because of his Mexican heritage.

Kirk also pitched himself as a bipartisan dealmaker and put his opposition to Trump at the center of his reelection bid, going up with an ad in June that said he “bucked his party to say Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief."

But Kirk undercut his already-uphill bid late last month after he appeared to question Duckworth’s American roots during a debate.

As Duckworth — who is Asian-American — recalled her family's past military service in the American Revolution, Kirk retorted: "I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."

The GOP senator faced fierce backlash over the comments, which drew comparisons to Trump and lost him the endorsements of the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions. He tried to do additional damage control during a final debate Friday, saying: “I’m not a racist.”

“I wasn't thinking. That was a mistake on my part,” he said when questioned about the remarks. 

Republican groups have largely written off the race in the final weeks, with GOP-aligned outside groups dropping less than $170,000 in the last two weeks of the election campaign.

Kirk raised less than $300,000 in the pre-general period, according to the Federal Election Commission. Duckworth, by comparison, brought in more than $860,000.