SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is encouraging fellow Illinois Republicans to look to his example and “never give up” in their quest to rebuild the party.

Kirk is the GOP’s top officeholder in Illinois. He spoke at Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday. The event serves as the formal kickoff of the 2014 campaign and Kirk’s official re-entry into the political arena.

Kirk suffered partial paralysis as a result of the January 2012 stroke. He took the stage with the help of his four-pronged cane as attendees cheered. Kirk says Republicans’ stance on fiscally conservative values will help protect Illinois from fiscal insolvency.

The party comes off major losses in 2012 as well as a recent gay marriage flap.

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