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  Mark Kirk’s Ex-wife: ‘Svengali Figure’ Influencing Candidate
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Last EditedRP  Aug 05, 2010 03:34pm
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CategoryInterview
AuthorCarol Felsenthal
News DateWednesday, August 4, 2010 09:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionHer marriage to Rep. Mark Kirk (R-10th Dist.) may have ended amicably in June 2009, and the two may remain friends today, but Kimberly Vertolli said that she will not “advocate” for her ex in his Senate run because she fears he is too influenced by a “Svengali figure” in his life—a former staffer named Dorothy “Dodie” McCracken.

Vertolli, 37, a former naval intelligence officer who was married to Kirk for eight years, told me in a telephone interview last week that she loves him and “want[s] him to be happy,” but she says that McCracken—Kirk’s press secretary during his first term—is “trying to control Mark and the direction of Mark’s campaign.” For example, Vertolli blames McCracken for the congressman’s support of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay people from serving in the military. Vertolli, a lawyer now living in the Virginia suburbs of D.C., added that Kirk assured her, “when the issue came up again, he’s going to do the right thing and support overturning that policy.”

Friends of Vertolli and Kirk told me the two remain close, and that Kimberly, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Acade­my at Annapolis and of Northwestern Law, raised money for her ex-husband’s campaign. Vertolli’s admiration for Kirk is obvious. “He really is accomplished, he is very smart, and he does have good intentions for serving and protecting the people who he wishes to serve,” she said. Their union produced no children, but the couple still shares a devotion to a 12-year-old Shih Tzu named Sophie, a birthday gift from Kirk in 1998.

I tracked Vertolli down last week in New Jersey, where she is working as general counsel to a family-run company there. Politically progressive and starkly direct, Vertolli called Kirk’s race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias “a big part of my life.” She ducked few questions, including rumors that Kirk, a moderate Republican who has represented the North Shore since 2001, is gay. He’s not, she says, elaborating on that, and much more, in this—part one of the edited transcript of our conversation:
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