excerpts of my conversation with Kirk’s ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, in which she discussed the “Svengali figure” behind his campaign, Dodie McCracken. Here, Vertolli offers her take on what would seem to be Kirk’s perplexingly unnecessary exaggerations. She adds that, despite some missteps in his campaign, in the race between Kirk and Giannoulias, she would vote for her ex...">
Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Kirk Ex-wife: Mark Will Win

Yesterday, I ran excerpts of my conversation with Kirk’s ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, in which she discussed the “Svengali figure” behind his campaign, Dodie McCracken. Here, Vertolli offers her take on what would seem to be Kirk’s perplexingly unnecessary exaggerations. She adds that, despite some missteps in his campaign, in the race between Kirk and Giannoulias, she would vote for her ex…

RELATED: PART I—MARK KIRK’S EX-WIFE: ‘SVENGALI FIGURE’ INFLUENCING CANDIDATE »

Last May, Mark Kirk (R-10th District) seemed headed for an easy victory in his race for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, leading Alexi Giannoulias 45 to 38 percent in the polls. Then, over Memorial Day weekend, news broke of exaggerations on Kirk’s impressive resume. That handed a slight lead to his opponent, the Illinois treasurer who is saddled with his own problems—the failure of his family’s bank and smelly loans to mobsters and to Tony Rezko.  

Yesterday, I ran excerpts of my conversation with Kirk’s ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, in which she discussed the “Svengali figure” behind his campaign, Dodie McCracken. Here, Vertolli offers her take on what would seem to be Kirk’s perplexingly unnecessary exaggerations. She adds that, despite some missteps in his campaign, in the race between Kirk and Giannoulias, she would vote for her ex.

CF: How do you explain the resume padding, and how much did it hurt?
KV: I think [McCracken] poorly advised Mark on how to handle that. Dodie is the one who controls what is said, how it’s said, to whom its said.
CF: Do you mean the Intelligence Officer of the Year award that Kirk said went to him but actually went to his unit?
KV: I don’t think it’s as bad as it might appear to some people, because Mark had no intent of deceit. He was the intelligence officer of the year because he was the head of the unit, and it was a big deal what they did. Mark was the one who decided who was on his team; Mark was the one who decided who got what authority. Mark [coordinated] multiple squadrons with complicated data from all different sources, making sure they have an accurate picture, because as an intel officer, if you don’t get it right, your guys can die. So to me, the point is he kicked ass, he was phenomenal. I don’t think it was intentional or that he was trying to deceive anyone. I’m disappointed with the way it was handled.
CF: Kirk was slammed for claiming to be in charge of the War Room in the Pentagon when he really was not. Do you have personal experience with the War Room?
KV: We met in the War Room at the Pentagon [in February 1998]. I was serving as an active-duty naval intelligence officer in the Pentagon. Yes, Mark was in charge, and Mark continues to be in charge. If people really understand what he’s doing when he’s in the Naval Reserve, it makes Mark look even more impressive than he already appears to be. 
CF: As these things seeped out, it made Kirk seem kind of silly or buffoonish.
KV: I said, “Mark you’ve never done anything to be intentionally deceitful. Don’t hide, don’t run, don’t stick your head in the sand and hope that it goes away, face them.” But [McCracken] encourages him to avoid the press, avoid confronting any kind of issue—just hide. That might help you in the short term, but in the long term, people want and deserve answers. Ninety-five percent of the time, he gets it right.
CF: What about the story of the sailboat rescue by the Coast Guard when he was 16? He was rescued in mid-afternoon but he claimed to have watched the sun set as he stood on his capsized sailboat—and faced the possibility that he would die.
KV: Who cares? He was 16. That’s not a big deal whether the sun was setting. The point was that he made a mistake in trying to get back to the shore, and he did almost drown. He was rescued by the Coast Guard. It did really make him think, “Oh, my god, life is short, I could have died. What would I have wanted to do if I hadn’t died?” That’s the whole point of it. Now we’re quibbling about whether it was sunset or three in the afternoon, what was his body temperature?
CF: What about alleged misstatements about teaching pre-school?
KV: That’s ridiculous. He never said he had tenure. He was a nursery school teacher. He did teach kids.  
CF: What impression do you have of Alexi Giannoulias?
KV: I think he has no business running for the seat. He’s inexperienced, unqualified, he has a terrible record whenever the public’s trust has been placed in him. I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad person; he’s a typical silver spoon candidate. He used daddy’s money to get the position of Illinois treasurer. 
CF: If you were still registered to vote in Illinois could you see yourself casting a ballot for Mark Kirk?
KV: Oh, absolutely. Great leaders have foibles, they’re not perfect, they’re human beings, they disappoint us sometimes. The best we can do is  use our best judgment with the choices we have and do our best to influence them to go on the right path. If I had the choice between Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias, it’s not hard. I’m really disappointed that Obama is going to be coming out and campaigning for Giannoulias. I think it’s beneath [the President.] [Obama] knows about those risky lending practices [of the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank]. Giannoulias has horrible judgment, and the President knows it.
CF: Do you think Mark Kirk will win in November?
KV: I feel pretty confident he’s going to win.
CF: Do you have any political ambition in your future?
KV: None whatsoever.

No response yet from the Kirk campaign.

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comments
4 years ago
Posted by HT

Wow, a lot different than the tone you ran yesterday. Yesterday you made it sound like she didn't trust the man at all and today she says she would vote for him if she could.

Don't you think this would have been better in context with what you had up yesterday?

Then again the stuff about how she likes him will not get as much play or pub as the stuff from yesterday.

Stay classy Chicago Magazine.

4 years ago
Posted by Orr

Experienced or not, I would vote for Giannoulias simply to keep another Republican out of the Senate. The whole party has been overrun with Dodie McCrackens.

4 years ago
Posted by SKEPTICAL

Given the fact that both candidates have clay feet, I don't find it surprising that she would prefer Kirk to Alexi, even in light of yesterday's revelations. It says as much about her thoughts about Alexi, which she didn't address in yesterday's portion of the interview.

4 years ago
Posted by SKEPTICAL

Given the fact that both candidates have clay feet, I don't find it surprising that she would prefer Kirk to Alexi, even in light of yesterday's revelations. It says as much about her thoughts about Alexi, which she didn't address in yesterday's portion of the interview.

4 years ago
Posted by chris robling

Mark Kirk is the best qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate we Illinoisans have seen in generations.

Congressman Kirk is a statesman who will contribute to the national security and defense of our country from the moment he takes the oath. Treasurer Giannoulias, should he somehow end up in that place, will have little more idea then about national security than he has now, which is nearly nil.

I regret the patch through which the Kirk campaign has gone. But none of it either diminishes Congressman Kirk's ability to represent Illinois ably in the senate or provides the slightest cure to Treasurer Giannoulias' absence of credentials to hold a public trust, let alone high office.

This conclusion overlooks the fact that I, like many conservative Republicans, disagree with many of Congressman Kirk's positions on domestic issues. It does so because fixating on those differences to the detriment of his achieving this office would deny the country his capabilities at the cost of Treasurer Giannoulias becoming a rubber stamp for Dick Durbin. In cinematic terms, Alexi actually aspires to be the cat's paw Claude Rains' Joseph Harrison Paine (Sen. Paine, get it?) hoped Jimmy Stewart's Jefferson Smith would be.

It is rare to see a spouse, let alone an ex-spouse, make statements such as those Ms Vertolli asserts in this conversation with Carol Felsenthal. I take these on their face to be statements based on great familiarity with Congressman Kikr as a person and informed by Ms Vertolli's own impressive professional credentials.

Alexi is no Jefferson Smith. He will not stand up against our Sen. Pain, Dick Durbin. Let's not even test the proposition, by taking this opportunity to send a great Congressman to advance Illinois and the country in the Senate.

4 years ago
Posted by Halloween Jack

Yes, there's quite a difference between yesterday's part and this one. She just sort of handwaves away Kirk's lies and exaggerations, as if it's no big deal that someone who she claims is this brilliant intelligence officer repeatedly fudges the facts in public. On the other hand, it does seem more plausible that they could have broken up for reasons that have nothing to do with Kirk's sexuality. She really seems to see McCracken as a very personal threat to herself.

4 years ago
Posted by And Another Thing

Well, now it makes sense. As a board member for an outstanding local non-profit, I had contact with Kirk's office. It was stunningly different from contact I had had with senators & representatives, both side of the aisle, in IL & CA. Kirk's aides were suspicious, difficult and non-responsive. The attitude seemed to be, "Who ARE you? Have you done anything for Mark Kirk?" I was actually asked how his name would be "used". I thought Kirk was an honorable man but was very troubled, knowing that he appoints his aides & is responsible for them. Also, for heavens sake, Kirk is gay. So what? The only problem I see is that he is in the closet and supports right wing anti-gay stances. Something's wrong here. Not being who you are leads to all kinds of Svengali-dependence. What a shame. And I agree that Giannoulis looks a lot better than the far right dominance in the republican party.

4 years ago
Posted by helen1

I read the first article and felt that the ex-wife and Kirk are both gay. Today, as I am reading the second article, I noticed a shift in her message. I am convinced that they are both gay... and in denial to the public.

Describing Kirk's campaign person as a 'svengali figure' gives the impression of extreme jealousy and control issues. Mrs. Ex reads like a strong-will homosexual female and Mr. Kirk reads like a weak homosexual male....dominated by two strong women.


Both the ex-wife and Kirk are deceitful and have an understanding of each other's sexuality. That's my take on this marriage. Sad! Life is so short and the truth eventually surfaces.

4 years ago
Posted by Goose me

Mark Kirk is gay. OK, there we said it.

4 years ago
Posted by PeytonPlace

Now ask whether Voters want McCracken and Vertolli in the Senate, especially since they're at odd ideologically.

And whether Kirk wants to live his life this way for six, maybe 12 years., i.e., being a ping-pong ball who's constantly being criticized because he keeps flip-flopping to keep these two windbags happy.

Look at what Vertolli's criticism has done about his recent vote on DADT. He's already promised to reverse it to keep her happy.

So, what's the McCracken going to do about THAT now to retaliate?

Peyton Place. Too bad Kirk seems in such dire need of "moral compASSes".

Our Country doesn't need this right now.

4 years ago
Posted by PeytonPlace

George Will:

Time for another "Will Kirk (this time) Really Be Happy In The Senate" article.

This one will probably be even more complex because it should also discuss whether Voters will be happy with Kirk in the Senate as he votes for, and then against, and then for...to keep his warped inner-circle happy--and to protect himself from the emotional blackmail they seem to keep inflicting upon him so successfully.

Is this what makes you feel "whole", Congressman? And what you perceive as a "commitment to serving the public"?

I'm sure they'll find a way to keep abusing you when you retire or return to the public sector. Or, maybe, finally go away so that you can live your life in peace, assuming that's what you'd want.

4 years ago
Posted by PeytonPlace

And here's a clue for Giannoulias' Campaign:

Take these quotes and use them in an ad a couple of days before Election Day. One thing Voters will never forget is his record of flip-flopping. Now, let them know what his "motivation" has been, is, and will be:

CF: That’s where you are now?
KV: No. He assured me that when the issue came up again, he’s going to do the right thing and support overturning that policy.

4 years ago
Posted by PeytonPlace

And then follow it up with a picture of McCracken standing off to the side, leaning forward, arms crossed, and snearing at Kirk while he speaks--ready to lunge at him if he says the wrong thing.

If one of those can't be easily found, just keep your cameras ready. That's typical posture for her at events.

4 years ago
Posted by sunshine in texas

Gay- Not Gay----McCracken is poison and am glad she's taking down the republican.

4 years ago
Posted by antikirkvoter

“Mark Kirk should be, but never is, ashamed of his disrespectful attitude toward teachers and our children, the students of Illinois. First he claims to have been a teacher, despite NO EVIDENCE of his ever having taken an education course of study, thereby belittling those who have dedicated their lives to teaching our children. Then he votes AGAINST keeping over 5000 Illinois teachers in their classrooms this school year. BUT, he has no issue voting to send this country into an unauthorized and unprovoked war. Nor does he have a problem cutting taxes for the wealthiest of Americans. Mark Kirk, you are a fraud AND a liar. To vote for this clown is a vote against honesty and integrity.”

2 years ago
Posted by LizDexic

Mark Kirkvand his ex are intel officers which is a conflict of interest for a member of congress...who votes on funding the CIA. Mark Kirk is gay and the phony marriage was a set-up to make him appear to be a family man for his election. They didn't live together and the ex Mrs Kirk is now back in VA near her CIA job.
(How many divorced spouses support their ex-spouses so wholeheartedly?
And how many people get to be a senator when their only work experience outside being a spy is being a nursery school assistant that no one remembers?

2 years ago
Posted by LizDexic

Mark Kirk and his ex are intel officers which is a conflict of interest for a member of congress...who votes on funding the CIA. Mark Kirk is gay and the phony marriage was a set-up to make him appear to be a family man for his election. They didn't live together and the ex Mrs Kirk is now back in VA near her CIA job.
(How many divorced spouses support their ex-spouses so wholeheartedly?
And how many people get to be a senator when their only work experience outside being a spy is being a nursery school assistant that no one remembers?

2 years ago
Posted by curios k

Really you need to able to read between the lines here ,something not right ,I think they're both gay and that their marriage was just a sham for both of them ,all he did on their honeymoon was sleep ?, you don't just sleep on your honeymoon ,I certainly didn't ,not buying it' doesn't pass the smell test is all I'm saying,that being said I do wish him a speedy recovery

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