The old expression “all politics is local” seems not applicable to the high-profile 8th congressional district race between U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth.
Unlike in the 17th congressional district race in western Illinois or even the neighboring 10th district contest, there is little in the 8th district race that is of exclusive interest to those particular voters. The battle between Walsh and Duckworth instead has focused on major national issues such as Medicare and Social Security, with Chicago and national media attention often covering the money being funneled into the race or the latest histrionics of Walsh, including his outrageous comments last Thursday on abortion.
Redrawn after the 2010 census, the 8th district covers a swath of Cook, Lake and McHenry Counties. It features communities such as Barrington, which is the childhood home of Walsh and one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, and Hoffman Estates, the current home of Duckworth and also the struggling Sears Holding Corp.
On his Web site Walsh gives few indications of the district he represents, instead speaking broadly about his opposition to government spending. Recent Walsh press releases include “clarification” of his pro-life position and criticisms of Duckworth for her time at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Walsh, for example, has a press release from last month about the Chicago Teachers Union strike, but only to impugn Duckworth for having both the support Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and labor unions. He has not commented on subsequent suburban teacher strikes.
Duckworth's Web site provides insight on her views on a few local issues, such as the need to support manufacturing jobs in Elk Grove Village, which is home to the largest industrial park in the country. The Duckworth campaign also notes that the candidate localizes national issues, such as discussing student loans with attendees of Elmhurst College last week.
One partly local issue the Duckworth campaign has focused on is that Walsh voted against the Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012. “Joe Walsh was the only member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation, which has 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats, to vote against a Transportation Bill that would have brought millions of dollars and jobs to the 8th congressional district,” Duckworth said in a statement last Tuesday.
Such money could potentially fund the belated expansion of the Elgin-O’Hare expressway that, despite its name, currently does not extend from Elgin to O’Hare International Airport.
In contrast to the 8th district, the 17th district race between U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Colona) and Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos of Moline is chock full of local issues. In a debate last Wednesday, Schilling and Bustos discussed at length district issues, which include the outsourcing of jobs at Sensata Technologies and the recent closing of a U.S. Postal Service mail-processing center in Rockford.
In the 10th district, which lies just east of the 8th district, U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) and Democratic challenger Brad Schneider of Deerfield have made the Great Lakes economy and local environmental issues a central part of their campaigns.
Image: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast