The race between Republican incumbent Joe Walsh and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth in Illinois’s 8th Congressional District race has attracted significant attention – and money – from other parts of the country. A recent Chicago Tribune-WGN-TV poll put Duckworth ahead of Walsh by ten points, with much stronger support among women and Independent voters in particular.
Duckworth is expected to win this race, after the Illinois General Assembly redrew the district lines to include a larger share of minorities. She has raised considerably more money than Walsh throughout the race, but outside money from Super PACs has strongly bolstered Walsh’s bid for reelection.
Walsh gained the seat from a Democrat in 2010 by a margin of fewer than 300 votes, running on a tea party platform. During his two years in office, he sided with Republican House leaders much of the time, but parted ways on issues pertaining to the country’s debt ceiling. Walsh has opposed measures to raise the debt ceiling. Walsh also supported GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.
Duckworth, a war veteran who lost both her legs while piloting a helicopter in Iraq in 2004, has run for Congress before. In 2006, she lost the race for the Illinois 6th District seat. She was subsequently tapped to head the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and most recently served as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The two candidates have sparred over issues ranging from Medicare reform to whether Congress should consider repealing the mortgage tax deduction for homeowners. Walsh supported the budget proposal by GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, which would have replaced seniors’ Medicare benefits with vouchers to support premium payments to private health care providers. Duckworth says she opposes such a drastic change, and instead favors curbing waste and fraud in Medicare, and pursuing cheaper negotiated prices for medicines.
In the final weeks of the race, abortion became a flashpoint in the race. When asked whether he would support abortion when the life of the mother was at issue, Walsh said “there’s no such exception. With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.”
Walsh later modified his statement to say that he is pro-life for both the mother and child, and acknowledged what he called “very rare circumstances” when the mother’s life may be at risk from the pregnancy. Throughout his campaign, Walsh has referred to Duckworth as a “pro-abortion zealot” for her position. Duckworth has said in the past she is "pro-choice without exception."