Updated 10:40 a.m.
Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth was up early Wednesday morning to thank her supporters and greet commuters at the Schaumburg Metra station, following her defeat of Republican incumbent Joe Walsh.
“They’re getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work and I’m getting up and going to work - my first thing to do is to thank them,” said Duckworth, who shook hands with a diverse crowd of commuters: veterans, recent immigrants and others boarding trains just before 7 a.m. at the station.
Duckworth said she has already started making calls - not just to say thanks, but to start reaching out to local mayors about priorities before she heads to Washington. She said much of her discussions focused on infrastructure, especially in regards to transportation, which she called the “lifeblood” of Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.
Tammy Duckworth talks to WBEZ about her priorities in her new job:
She was quick to rattle off just a few of those priorities, from the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway to working on western access to O’Hare International Airport to making sure there is new access to the Barrington Road interchange.
All of that will lead to her biggest focus: job creation.
“We need to make sure we invest in our businesses, make it easier for them to do their work so they can hire and put people back to work,” she said.
Duckworth’s race attracted significant attention – and money – from other parts of the country.
Duckworth was aided greatly by new congressional lines, after the Illinois General Assembly redrew the district lines to include a larger share of minorities. She raised considerably more money than Walsh throughout the race, but outside money from Super PACs strongly bolstered Walsh’s bid for re-election.
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, ran 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 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 repeatedly that she is “pro-choice without exception.”