Rep. Kirk raises $1.6 million in third quarter

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) raised more than $1.6 million in just two months, giving Republicans more hope of picking off President Obama's former Senate seat.

Kirk, a prodigious fundraiser during his five terms in Congress, began October with $2.3 million left in the bank, his campaign announced Monday. He entered the race about three weeks into July and raised most of his money — more than $900,000 — in September.

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An early backer of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign, Kirk reaped about a half-million dollars from a McCain-hosted fundraiser. He's been endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee — a blessing that has proven as much an albatross as a benefit in other races — and Kirk got contributions this quarter from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other top Republicans.

Kirk remains the leading Republican in a growing field populated by lesser-known contenders, and national Republicans hope Kirk's centrist credentials will help him succeed retiring Sen. Roland Burris (D). Still, he will have to get through a primary that may include a few candidates willing to spend their own money to become better-known around the state.

Democrats have their own primary to deal with, as state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias will face former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson.

The Feb. 2 primary is likely to ensure the winners will have ample time to heal any intra-party rifts and rebuild depleted warchests.

None of the three Democrats have released their fundraising numbers. Giannoulias, the first candidate in the race, finished the second quarter in June with $1.6 million in the bank. A Giannoulias spokesman declined to comment and would not make available the campaign's second-quarter haul.

With campaigns required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15, early reports are starting to trickle out in several states. State Sen. Gilbert Baker (R), who has finished some polls ahead of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), will announce having raised $500,000 in September, according to his Twitter feed.

And in Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley easily led the Democratic field in the short sprint to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D). Coakley raised $2.1 million since announcing her bid, outpacing CityYear founder Alan Khazei, who raised more than $1 million, and Rep. Mike Capuano, who raised $300,000 to go along with his $1.2 million warchest.