Unless map changes, U.S. Reps. Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren will face each other in GOP primary

September 21, 2011

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(File/AP)

Two Republican congressmen from Illinois are likely to face each other in a primary election next year. U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh said he will run in the 14th District, against a fellow freshman, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren.

Democratic leaders in Illinois drew new congressional boundaries they knew would pit some incumbent Republicans against one another. That has now started to happen.

Walsh represents the northwest suburban 8th District, but the new boundaries make the 8th much more Democratic. In a letter on Wednesday to supporters, Walsh said that unless a lawsuit against the map prevails, he will instead run in the new 14th - a more solidly Republican area.

Trouble is, that means he's up against that district's current representative, Hultgren.

Walsh called the situation "unfortunate," but noted his home was drawn into the 14th District.

"In many ways Randy and I are both good conservatives who share many of the same values but there are also healthy differences between the two of us," Walsh said. "We've both had a very different initial tenure in Washington, and the voters in the new district will decide which one of us will best be their voice in D.C."

In a statement, Hultgren said he's disappointed by his fellow Republican's decision. He accused Walsh of "playing into the hands of" Democrats, who he said drew the map "specifically to encourage" a contested GOP primary.

But the chair of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, had nothing but positive things to say about Walsh's decision.

"Well, you know we encourage primaries, and it should be a spirited debate, and we'll see who comes out of it," Brady said. "Either way in the 14th congressional we'll have a conservative Republican back in Washington, which is what we look for."

The primary is likely to include a debate over who's more conservative, the soft-spoken Hultgren or Walsh, the cable TV star.

Brady acknowledged issues other than ideology will "surely" enter the race, including allegations, which Walsh denies, that the congressman owes his ex-wife many thousands in child support.

Brady said the party won't be making an endorsement in the primary.

"Rarely do we do them, and certainly not in this race," Brady said. "We'll just wait and see what happens, and do whatever we can to get the infrastructure ready for the general election."