Finger pointing, swearing, yelling and eye rolling have dominated one of the most competitive and partisan Congressional races in the country, and that’s just counting the two major party candidates.
Featuring negative ads, shifting positions and millions of dollars from national political action groups, the race to represent Illinois’ 8th Congressional district has been expensive and explosive.
The Tea Party Republican, Rep. Joe Walsh, whose blunt, verbose rants often get him into trouble, even with members of his own party, faces a strong Democratic opponent in Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was shot down.
Redrawn after the 2010 census, the 8th district covers parts 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. It also includes the 11,000-seat Sears Center, site of concerts ranging from Taylor Swift to The Eagles.
The two have clashed over many economic issues such as abortion, jobs, budget and deficit spending.
When two political foes as different as these two get together, it doesn’t take long for fireworks to start. In a recent debate on public television, Walsh’s expressed his opposition to abortion, without exception.
Asked by reporters after the final debate if he was saying that it’s never medically necessary to conduct an abortion to save the life of a mother, Walsh responded, “Absolutely.”
“There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing,” Walsh declared in comments to reporters after a televised debate Oct. 18.
He added there should be no abortion exception for the “life of the mother” because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would actually die.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has 56,000 members, said abortions were necessary “in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health.”
“Unfortunately, pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions,” the group said in a statement, noting that more than 600 women die in the United States each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
Duckworth contended that Walsh “would let a woman die,” rather than allow her to have an abortion.
“I’m pro-choice without restriction, and here, though, Mr. Walsh…what he said — not for rape, incest or life of the mother — he would let a woman die rather than give her, than to give the doctor the option to save her life,” Duckworth said during the final debate.
The Economy and Jobs
To help renovate the economy, Duckworth supports the production of short-term projects designed to help further immediate growth along with long-term projects that will ensure that growth and stability continue. These plans include the short-term approach of investing in infrastructure, transportation, schools, communication, utilities and education.
Earlier in the campaign, Duckworth told a business forum in Schaumburg: “We must continue to invest in early childhood education to build the foundation for our children and their education. Early childhood education offers the best opportunity to close achievement gaps and is a major differentiator between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”
“I support programs like Head Start and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – as long as they are funded and supported appropriately.”
According to statistics found by The Broad Foundation, 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year and 44 percent of dropouts under the age of 24 are jobless. That is $300 billion in lost wages, lost taxes and lost productivity due to dropouts from the class of 2007, alone.
In the long-term, she wants to focus on job-training, extending the payroll tax credit and developing tax credits for businesses that focus on research, clean energy development and those who hire veterans and the chronically under or unemployed.
“I strongly support clean energy innovations that begin with conservation, energy independence, and the ingenuity of American business before we irreparably harm the environment for our children and grandchildren,” Duckworth said.
Unlike Duckworth, Walsh’s approach to developing the economy centers on supporting small businesses by taking away regulations that many say inhibit their growth, stifle innovation and waste their time on tedious paperwork.
Marina Collazo, an Oak Brook-based small business owner of ACN and Marina Marketing, who is a single mother, lives in the 8th District. Collazo expressed her concerns during a news conference sponsored by Walsh on Oct. 26 outside a Bloomingdale law office about what this race means to her business.
“I am trying to build my business…as a single mom, trying to raise two daughters, with this economy, I want to know what you’re going to vote on there,” Collazo said.
Walsh responded with, “There is no group of people in this country that has a target on their back like small business men and women,” and then argued that it is the government’s responsibility to minimize regulations and instead place more focus on legislatures to make decisions that keep the business unburdened.
“Our federal government continues to go on a spending spree unlike anything seen in history,” Walsh stated.
“President Bush started the ball rolling with the TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] program, and then President Obama doubled down with his pork-laden omnibus spending bill and the wasteful stimulus package.”
Walsh and others who proudly proclaim their Tea Party status were elected to Congress in 2010 by criticizing both Republicans and Democrats for voting to spend too much, arguing against the economic philosophy that government stimulus is required when an economy is mired in recession.
The U.S. Treasury Department established several programs under TARP to help stabilize the U.S. financial system, restart economic growth, and prevent avoidable foreclosures. The authority to make new financial commitments under TARP ended on Oct. 3, 2010.
As of Aug. 31, 2012, Treasury has recovered more than 85 percent of the funds disbursed through the program and is now winding down its remaining TARP investments. Treasury is also continuing to implement TARP initiatives to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, although President Obama has been attacked for moving too slowly on this front.
Budget Cutting and Spending Priorities
The U.S. federal budget deficit continues to rise, as weak economic growth and stubborn unemployment numbers decrease revenue. Although Congress is debating how to create fiscal balance without slowing the economy further, a solution appears distant due to partisan gridlock, and Tea Partiers who have taken a vow not to increase any taxes.
Duckworth wants to rebalance the budget through a combination-approach that reduces annual government spending and establishes a system that will ensure the budget stays under control.
“The budget deficit can only be reduced with a multi-faceted approach that includes cutting annual government spending, identifying additional savings opportunities and creating an equitable system that will balance the budget and forge a sustainable fiscal path for our economic future,” Duckworth said.
She plans to protect such popular programs as Social Security, Medicare and Pell Grants, while making cuts in federal contracting expenses and the nation’s defense budget.
“As a combat veteran,” Duckworth explained during a breakfast business forum in Schaumburg, “I will work to ensure that the next time our country considers going to war again that my colleagues understand the true cost of that decision.”
She also wants to end subsidies to the oil and gas industries, and some agriculture subsidies.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency accounted for $16 billion of the federal support, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), while the fossil-fuel industry received $2.5 billion in tax breaks.
Slightly more than a third of the federal budget is available for any member of Congress to affect.
According to the Office of Management and Budget the current discretionary spending is 35.2 percent of the total budget. Of the discretionary spending, 15 percent is non-defense. These figures affect debates over so-called “entitlements,” such as rising costs versus contributions of Social Security, as well as the huge debt service
The country will face the so-called fiscal cliff at the beginning of next year, a delayed compromise of lower spending and higher taxes that is likely to extract about $600 billion from the economy. Many economists think every dollar of deficit cutback will subtract nearly the same amount from economic growth.
By that measure, the current course could cause the economy to contract by 0.5 percent in 2013, according to estimates by the CBO that have been largely embraced by Wall Street and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Nevertheless, research by economists at the International Monetary Fund suggests a dollar of deficit reduction could drain as much as $1.70 from the economy, making the prospective belt tightening much more dangerous.
To Walsh, the government’s spending has gone out of control in recent years. Walsh supports Congress being held more accountable for its actions and passing a balanced budget.
A balanced-budget amendment would change the U.S. Constitution to mandate that the federal government cannot spend more than its income, already a requirement in most of the individual states. Although it sounds simple on its face, it could hamstring presidents and Congress in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies, such as 9-11, so proponents have offered provisions to make such exceptions and/or allow Congress
To suspend the rule by a super-majority vote, Walsh is focusing on bringing this issue home to prospective voters.
“With over $15 trillion in debt, each person’s share in the United States is $50,000,” Walsh exclaimed during the forum.
“If families in these tough economic times can trim budgets and cut costs, and learn to live within their means, why can’t Congress? After all, at this rate our government will be bankrupting our kids and grandkids, robbing them of all the opportunities that this country has offered to us.”
Previously, he has filed various proposals calling for a balanced budget to be passed each year, and was part of a group of legislators who supported a bill that says Congress won’t get paid if this does not happen.
Duckworth led the money chase for the first half of October. She received $487,927 for the 17-day period the report covers, vastly out-raising Walsh, according to the Federal Election Commission. Walsh reported getting almost $75,000.
Still, with money Walsh had accumulated previously, he had nearly $600,000 to enter the stretch drive toward the Nov. 6 election while Duckworth had slightly less than $300,000, according to the FEC.
Duckworth, who has increased national Democratic support in her second congressional bid, has now raised nearly $4.5 million for the 2011-12 election cycle. She had to spend some of that during a March primary campaign. Walsh has raised nearly $1.9 million during the cycle, according to the FEC.
In addition to what the two candidates have spent, more than $3.5 million in outside money has poured into the race from national party reserves, labor unions and super political action committees, federal records show.
The conservative SuperPAC, Now or Never, that had already plowed $2 million into Walsh’s race and had threatened to put in an supplementary $2.5 million to “bury” Duckworth, is now putting its money elsewhere.
A new Tribune/WGN-TV poll-shows Duckworth had the backing of 50 percent to 40 percent for Walsh.
An additional 9 percent were undecided, which is momentous this close to the Nov. 6 balloting, especially for a highly visible contest that has been aggressive for months.
According to the poll, there’s a gender gap. Among women, Duckworth scored 54 percent support to Walsh’s 34 percent. Yet, the boldness Walsh often displays in criticizing political correctness hasn’t earned him any advantage among men. While the Republican has a 46 percent to 45 percent lead over Duckworth among male voters, it is statistically insignificant.
The survey of 600 likely 8th District voters was conducted Saturday, Oct. 7 through Wednesday, Oct. 9 and has an error margin of 4 percentage points.
Unlike the Tribune/WGN-TV poll, two years ago, We Ask America was the only pollster known that predicted little-known Republican Tea Party advocate, Walsh, would win his race against Democrat incumbent Melissa Bean. Walsh won that contest in a squeaker and now faces Duckworth.
We Ask America conducted a poll in early October with a survey of 1,158 that had Walsh backing 48 percent to 45 percent for Duckworth. This poll had an error margin of 2.9 percentage points.
Donald Wilson, resident of the 8th District, who works as a Network Operator at Chicago Board Options of Chicago, stated on Think Progress, “[Walsh is] grabbing for straws now! He’s lost both debates and now he’s in my district trying to gin up support that is going nowhere as well. At least the redistricting worked for us well here ‘cause he’s done as a congressman.”
For Tim Dehoogh, resident of Bloomingdale, Walsh’s co-sponsorship of the No Budget, No Pay Act is worth his vote.
Commenting on Walsh’s Facebook page, Dehoogh says, “Keep up the great work in congress…we are all in this as a nation, we need to do the hard things by making hard and unwanted decisions like you have.”
Article originally published on Chicago Talks.
- Final Debate Heats Up Over Abortions (katherineiorio.wordpress.com)
- Candidates Push for Early Voting (katherineiorio.wordpress.com)
- Walsh asks why Duckworth is focused on abortion instead of the economy (illinoisreview.typepad.com)
- Walsh, Duckworth still battle in diverse district (sfgate.com)
- Conservative SuperPAC jumps back into Duckworth-Walsh congressional race (blogs.suntimes.com)
- Walsh, Duckworth Spar Over Abortion At Last Debate (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- A Heated Debate Over the 8th District (katherineiorio.wordpress.com)
- Joe Walsh: abortions never necessary to save life of mother (blogs.suntimes.com)
- Walsh responds to Duckworth whistleblower coverup attempt (illinoisreview.typepad.com)
- Abortion front and center in final Walsh-Duckworth debate (suntimes.com)