Duckworth defeats Walsh for 8th District

By Contributing Writer

by Elizabeth Earl

Contributing writer

In a tight, nationally-viewed race, Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican incumbent Joe Walsh in the Congressional Race for 8th District 56 percent to 45 percent. Duckworth who is bilingual, is the first Asian-American to represent Illinois in Congress.

“I am proud to be your servant in Congress,” Duckworth said in her victory speech. “All Americans should be served by their government.”

Duckworth initially ran for state representative in 2006 and lost by a narrow margin. This year, she ran in the redrawn 8th District, which includes the north and western suburbs of Zion, Winthrop Harbor, Gurnee, Schaumburg, Barrington, Palatine and Woodstock. The district was redrawn in 2010 to controversial reception from Republicans.

Because the district begins in Chicago and incorporates some suburbs, Democrats were accused of using redistricting to make up for population losses in the city. Before the restructuring, the 8th District, encompassing much more of the area, stretched into Wisconsin and down to Elgin.

“I was out all over the district,” Duckworth said of the day’s campaigning. “I’ve lost count—maybe a dozen places,” Duckworth said. “Really, it was more just to encourage my volunteers [who were] knocking on doors day after day after day for the last 18 months to work hard for us.”

The race between Duckworth and Walsh has been characterized by strong political advertisements, slips of the tongue and controversial comments. Most recently, Walsh’s son made a public request for Duckworth to withdraw an ad that claimed Walsh owed child support and was a “deadbeat dad.” Duckworth refused to withdraw the ad. Soon after, an ad appeared for the Walsh campaign attacking Duckworth regarding the wrongful termination of two female veterans.

According to Anthony DeAngelo, an aide for the Duckworth campaign, the Walsh campaign spent approximately $5.8 million on negative ads, while her campaign only spent approximately $475,000 on negative advertisements. Most of Walsh’s funding came from Super PACs outside the 8th District, DeAngelo added.

“With the Super PACs, we were outspent 12–one on some really vicious ads,” Duckworth said. “I can’t worry about that right now. I’ve got to worry about what the people of this district want because it’s not about me—it’s about them.”

Much of the funding for the Duckworth campaign has been grassroots, said finance chair John Atkinson. He added that a major issue for the campaign was women’s health care.

“Joe Walsh had a very extremist position on women’s health care,” Atkinson said. “I think any time you can replace a voice like that with someone … who is educated on the topic, then that’s what you need to do.”

A hot button issue between the two candidates has been the ever-present issue of sexual assault and abortions. Duckworth is pro-abortion rights, while is anti-abortion rights, and comments from both camps have led to claims of extremism. Walsh, who was tapped as a Tea Party favorite, said there are no cases where the abortion is right. Duckworth supports no parental involvement in a teenager’s right to abort.

The 8th District is most interested in jobs, infrastructure improvement, and the expansion of the Pell Grant program, said Duckworth supporter Doris Heilman. She said Duckworth would support the to fight against the “radical right” and represent the people.

“This election has always been about jobs,” Atkinson said. “Tammy has always had this ability to communicate … she’s a very open-minded, bipartisan person.”

Once the assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Duckworth is the recipient of a Purple Heart for military service after losing her legs in combat in the Middle East. The Walsh campaign has criticized her for using this as a campaign platform, claiming that “true heroes don’t talk about it.” The Duckworth campaign fired back, slamming the super PAC funding of the Walsh campaign.

“I’m just going to focus on the issues,” Duckworth said. “It’s not about the attacks against me.”

For further information about the Walsh/Duckworth race, go to