Second-year Congressman and nationally prominent Tea Party mouthpiece
Joe Walsh announced Thursday that he would run for re-election in
Illinois’ re-drawn 8th Congressional district – his current district,
discarding earlier intentions to run in the 14th. This is despite the
fact that his home county of McHenry is now in the 14th District and a
newly redrawn 8th district is now made up of majority Democratic voters.
In a relentlessly over-the-top speech to the Chicago Tea Party Thursday night, Walsh kept saying that the country was at war, fighting a, presumably, figurative battle over the size of government. He believed that he could keep his Congressional seat because 8th district voters will join him in the fight to shrink government.
“I will run for
re-election in that new 8th,” Walsh said at Cubby Bear Bar, a spacious
sports bar across the street from Wrigley Field. “I refuse to believe
that most Americans want to be dependent on government and lose their
freedoms. This run in the 8th will prove we are right.”
The biggest winner from Thursday night’s announcement is GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren. The current 14th district Congressman no longer faces the prospect of running against another incumbent lawmaker in the GOP primary.
Two possible losers are the Democratic candidates for the 8th Congressional seat – Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi. The winner of that contest now will likely face Walsh in the general instead of, most likely, Darlene Ruscitti, superintendent of the DuPage County office of education.
But Democrats claim that Walsh has become too much of a political caricature to be re-elected in any district.
“He gets seven months extra of the limelight [by getting the 8th Republican nomination],” says Mike Murray, Krishnamoorthi’s spokesman. “He’s doing the GOP party a favor by not challenging Hultgren.”
Duckworth, who fought in a literal war – she lost her legs in Iraq and has since for worked for the Illinois and U.S. Veterans Affairs departments, released a statement Thursday night that criticized Walsh as too bombastic and far to the right to be an effective legislator.
“I am running to replace Rep. Joe Walsh in the 8th district because the residents here want a member of Congress who will find practical solutions, not defend rigid ideology,” Duckworth said.
Krishnamoorthi, who currently runs a laboratory research company, released a message that criticized both Walsh and Duckworth, suggesting Duckworth lacks the command of economic issues needed to combat Walsh’s anti-government rhetoric.
“There is no doubt that I am uniquely positioned to deal with the serious business and economic challenges confronting our country, and to stand up to Joe Walsh and the Tea Party on the economy and job creation,” Krishnamoorthi said.
For Walsh, economic and job creation policies are black-and-white matters: Get government out of the market. In an interview after the speech with Progress Illinois, Walsh says that he is a Congressman, “to stop the folks who disagree with people like me. So it seemed like the better and more important fight was to fight in this new 8th district,” instead of taking on the Republican Hultgren.
Walsh made national news for avoiding Chicago-based “Take Back the Capitol” protestors who showed up at his Washington, D.C. office Wednesday. Walsh said he gets some of the Occupy movement's frustrations with “crony capitalism” but scoffed at a comparison between it and the Tea Party.
“The Tea Party movement is a real movement, not some protest thing,” Walsh says. “I haven’t met an Occupy Wall Street person who understands that ultimately market capitalism is the answer.”
Walsh also noted that despite a couple of attempts he had yet to get in touch with Ruscitti, whom he will likely displace as the 8th District GOP nominee (Progress Illinois was also unable to get in touch with Ruscitti).
Ruscitti, who announced her candidacy in October when it looked like Walsh would run in the 14th, is possibly the biggest loser from Thursday’s announcement.
Another candidate hurt by Walsh’s decision is Frank McClatchey, the former McHenry County Democratic Party chairman, who was running as a Democrat for the 14th district seat.
“It would have been nice to have Walsh and Hultgren duke it out,” McClatchey said in an interview Thursday night. “It’s still doable, but to be honest with you I was hoping Walsh would be in the 14th."
Check back with Progress Illinois for video and interviews from last night's announcement.
UPDATE 12/9/11: Here's video of a portion of Walsh's announcement in which he spends a great deal of time complaining about Washington politics, claiming that "we are at war ... for the very soul of America":