With less than two months until the Nov. 6 election, candidates for the newly-redrawn 8th Congressional District, held their second debate battling over issues ranging from health care and education reform, to Middle Eastern violence.
Republican Congressman Joe Walsh and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth settled on little late Friday night during an hour-long TV debate hosted by WFLD Fox-32; yet it was clear they were honing their attacks on one another.
Walsh mocked Duckworth for asking residents if they are better off now than four years ago. He challenged her to ride the district together with him and talk to residents. “I think it’d be a riot,” Walsh said.
The 8th district in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs was drawn by Democrats who control the Illinois legislature to give Duckworth a better chance, Republicans contend. Duckworth lost her 2006 race against Peter Roskam by 2 percent and she was later appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2009.
Walsh was elected to Congress in 2011 after defeating three-term incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean by a margin of 291 votes in the old 14th district. He prides himself on his blunt remarks, which have drawn criticism from opponents and commentators.
For example, in August at a meeting in Elk Grove, he contended that there is “a radical stream of Islam” in the United States which threatens the lives of Americans.
Walsh repeated that assertion in the debate, adding that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had investigated 126 cases of home-grown terrorism since 2009, “where citizens or residents of the U.S. have been working with Al Qaeda to plot mass killings right here,” Walsh said at the meeting.
“We can’t let political correctness kill Americans,” said Walsh.
Duckworth attacked Walsh for inflammatory rhetoric against Muslim-Americans, warning that “reckless words can lead to reckless actions.”
She accused him of being part of the do-nothing “status quo” in Washington. In fact, this Congress has passed the fewest number of bills ever.
On abortion, Walsh reaffirmed that he is pro-life without exception, while Duckworth said she “trusts women to make decisions about their own bodies,” and favors public funding of abortion in some cases.
“He would let a mother die and not have access to abortion,” said Duckworth.
Of the recent troubles in the Middle East–embassies under siege and the murder of four U.S. diplomats in Libya—Walsh chastised the “political correctness” of the Obama administration and defended Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s early criticism of White House passivity.
“We forget about some very blunt facts, that there are evil people around the world and right here at home trying to kill Americans,” Walsh said. “If you can’t keep our embassies safe, if you can’t keep Americans safe in our embassies…we’ll pull those embassies.… If these countries can’t control this dangerous radical strain of Islamists, we’ll cut off aid. We need to be very clear.”
Duckworth said the response to the attacks represented “a time for very cool heads. What we need to do is make sure that the rest of the world knows that America will not accept being attacked,” but that “this cannot be made into a political issue by either Democrats or Republicans.”
Regarding healthcare, Walsh said he would work to repeal the entirety of “Obamacare” and replace it with some sort of “patient centered care” which would allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines.
Duckworth said she would work to change parts of the Affordable Care Act, particularly provisions that apply to businesses having to provide health insurance for their workers.
“While I support provisions in the Affordable Care Act such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, we must also make sure that small businesses are protected from burdensome regulations,” said Duckworth.“We have to keep guaranteed benefits.”
Of the Chicago Public Schools teacher’s strike, Duckworth said neither side was 100 percent right, however, Walsh attacked the statement she made earlier in the day stating she’s “in an interesting situation” since she was backed by both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the teachers union.
“This is all about the kids,” said Walsh, although he also said the strike really is because “teachers don’t want to be evaluated.”
With new reports showing Illinois with the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation last month, one in 300 houses in some stage of foreclosure, Walsh said government mortgage programs have been little more than a “Band Aid” that have been unsuccessful. He said “the best housing program is jobs,” and faulted government restrictions on bank lending practices.
But Duckworth said banks that were bailed out by taxpayer money should be making loans to those people with good credit to refinance homes with mortgages under water.
Walsh concluded his comments by restating the nation needs to do some “growing up”, that politicians should stop making promises they can’t keep, that bills have to be paid, and “we can’t keep living in denial.”
Duckworth said she would roll up her sleeves to collaborate in a bipartisan manner.
Both clichés – roll up sleeves, grow up – don’t allow them in print unless you are desperate!!
“It’s about serving the nation. There’s hard work to do. Let’s get to it,” she said.
Both candidates will debate another two more times Oct. 9 on WCPT – AM & FM and AM 560 WIND—which will be held at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows and will be open to residents of the 8th district. The final debate will be Oct. 18 on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.
- Rep. Joe Walsh, battling Duckworth, bolstered by $1.3 million in help from Now or Never SuperPac (blogs.suntimes.com)
- Tammy Duckworth facing $405,150 SuperPac attack: Illinois House 8 (blogs.suntimes.com)
- Now or Never PAC challenges Duckworth’s “better off” debate comment (illinoisreview.typepad.com)