With Mark Kirk presumably running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Democrats and Republicans are eyeing the U.S. House seat Kirk now holds.
So far, state Sen. Michael Bond is the only Democrat who's publicly announced a bid for the 10th House District seat, which has been Kirk's since 2000. And recent Mount Prospect mayoral hopeful Patricia Bird is the only announced GOP candidate.
But a variety of other politicians have voiced interest in the post or have been mentioned as possible candidates, including a few state lawmakers.
Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, has yet to make an official announcement about his political future, but GOP sources have said he's running for the Senate.
Bond is a Grayslake freshman whose star has quickly risen within his party. He said Kirk's decision doesn't affect his desire to serve in Congress.
"What others decide to do in this race will have no impact on my decision," Bond said Thursday in an e-mailed statement. "I am looking forward to building on the early support we've received and to providing the kind of voice in Washington that our families deserve."
Bird, a business owner and political researcher, has never held elected office but said she wants "to represent citizens in this area." She cited health care and the budget deficit among her top concerns.
The 10th District includes much of the North Shore and some of the Northwest suburbs in Cook and Lake counties. Despite having elected Republicans to the House for many years - most recently Kirk, and John Porter before him - voters here have been courted as independents.
They overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign last year and backed Sen. John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential run in 2004.
Bond and Bird surely won't remain the only candidates for the congressional seat.
State Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate, too. Garrett said she's giving a congressional bid "serious thought" but is waiting for Kirk to formally make a decision before setting her own course.
"It's definitely weighing on my mind," she said. "I've been thinking about this for a long time."
Wilmette Democrat Dan Seals, who lost to Kirk in 2006 and 2008, is considering a third try in 2010. Although not ready to announce his candidacy, he said he'd stand a better chance of winning with Kirk out of the picture.
"I took on the most popular and prolific Republican in the state and came away with 47 percent of the vote," Seals said. "That bodes well (for me)."
On the other side of the aisle, suburban Republican leaders say Winnetka business owner Dick Green is interested in the post.
"If it's an open seat, I'm strongly considering it," said Green, who's active in the New Trier Township GOP organization but has never run for public office.
Green said he hopes to make a decision within two weeks.
Another possible Republican candidate is state Rep. Elizabeth Coulson of Glenview. She could not be reached for comment.
Dan Venturi, chairman of the Lake County GOP organization, expects more candidates will come forward with Kirk out of the way.
"A lot of people weren't interested in running because they didn't want to run against Mark Kirk," Venturi said.
One Republican who's not interested in the post is state Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch, whose name has been circulated as a potential ballot entry.
"We still have plenty of work to do in the state," Osmond said.
Last year's Kirk-Seals matchup was one of the nation's most closely watched congressional races. Kirk won re-election despite the national swing for Democrats.
It was an expensive race, too, with both candidates spending millions to spread their messages to voters. Venturi expects the next campaign for the 10th District post also will require thick bankrolls.
"That's going to be crucial," said Venturi, who expects each candidate in the eventual general election will have to raise $3 million to $4 million to be competitive.
Gabby Adler, Midwest spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called the 10th District "a great opportunity for Democrats this election cycle."
"This will be an exciting race, and we are looking forward to working with a strong Democratic nominee in 2010," Adler said in an e-mail.
Republican Party officials insist they'll fight to keep the seat, regardless of which candidates eventually appear on the ballot.
"We respect whatever decision Congressman Kirk ultimately makes, but at the end of the day we will do everything we can to hold this seat," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said. "This has always been a competitive district, but it is also one that Mark Kirk has proved is winnable."