(CBS) — Like most of Illinois’ prominent Republicans, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is not at the Republican National Convention.
He’s proposing a series of bilingual debates against Democratic Challenger Tammy Duckworth.
Kirk tells CBS2 Special Correspondent Jay Levine that aside from a few physical limitations, he’s fully recovered from the stroke which nearly took his life four years ago.
The first-term senator still uses a wheelchair most of the time, but mentally, he says he’s fully recovered. He says he could handle debates.
“In fact, I have asked Tammy Duckworth to debate me en espanol,” says Kirk, who is up for other debates, and in English.
Kirk has said he won’t endorse his party’s controversial presidential nominee, Donald Trump. He says he’ll write in retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, and urge others to do the same.
“I don’t think Donald Trump would make a good commander-in-chief, he’s too emotional,” Kirk says of Trump.
In many ways, and on many issues, Kirk seems closer to Democrats than Republicans.
“I am a moderate, pro-choice pro-gay rights guy who wants to spend less and tax less,” Kirk says.
He says he also bucks his party where the NRA is concerned.
Levine asked Kirk about a series of controversial statements he has made in recent memory. That includes a reference last year to Chicago’s South Side, when he referred to an unmarried colleague as a “bro with no ho.”
“When you’re in a race like I’m in, everything is taken the wrong way,” Kirk says.
But then he almost immediately let fly another headscratcher about the therapeutic benefits of pinot grigio. He says the wine has helped him talk more clearly.
“Suddenly, as the pinot grigio hit the brain stem, my speech abilities came back. And I said to my girlfriend, ‘OK, it’s going to be only pignot grigio.’”
Kirk has waged a long, hard battle to recover from that life-threatening stroke.
Now, he’s fighting for his political life, for a U.S. Senate seat Democrats feel may be their best chance to take that chamber from the GOP.