September 21, 2011
Illinois Rep. Walsh to challenge fellow GOP congressman Hultgren
By Rick Pearson | McClatchy-Tribune News Service
CHICAGO — Freshmen U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh announced Wednesday he intends to knock off fellow Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren in next year's primary, the latest conflict to result from new Democratic-drawn boundaries aimed at weakening GOP representation in Washington.
Walsh, a controversial tea party favorite who also carries some political baggage, announced to supporters in an email that he had decided to run in the new far west suburban and exurban 14th District if the new boundaries survive a Republican court challenge. The district includes Walsh's McHenry residence but also includes Hultgren's home in Winfield.
Walsh currently represents the northwest suburban 8th District, which, under the new congressional map, was drawn as a Democratic-leaning open seat district. At least two Democrats, former U.S. Veterans' Affairs assistant secretary Tammy Duckworth and former state deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, are poised for a primary battle in the new district.
Walsh's decision was not unexpected and he had been traveling to parts of the new 14th District in an effort to introduce himself to voters in areas that he currently doesn't represent, primarily in Kendall, Kane, Will, and DeKalb counties.
Another Republican fight is brewing in the redrawn 16th District in northwestern Illinois, where longtime Rep. Don Manzullo is seeking re-election. Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who currently represents the 11th Congressional District in the south and southwest suburbs, was drawn into the new 2nd Congressional District now represented by Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Rather than face Jackson, Kinzinger announced recently that he would challenge Manzullo if the Democratic-drawn map stands.
Republicans have been slow to formally declare for re-election and provide some legitimacy to the new map, as part of a legal strategy in their federal court challenge.
Incumbents, however, are feeling some pressure to circulate candidacy petitions for the March 20 primary ballot, a process which began early this month and ends with petition filing in early December. They also want to ramp up their fundraising efforts heading into the campaign season.
Walsh's decision triggers what is likely to be a contentious and expensive primary fight with Hultgren.
Both are conservatives. But Hultgren, a former state lawmaker, has a low-key style compared to Walsh, who has gained a national audience - and fundraising potential - through frequent TV appearances and sharp criticism of President Barack Obama.
"The district belongs to the people of this district and they will have to decide who their next representative is. And if they have to decide between two Republican incumbents, so be it," Walsh told supporters in his email.
"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, 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.," Walsh wrote.
Hultgren had anticipated a challenge from Walsh and has retained veteran Republican consultant Jerry Clarke, who ran Bill Brady's failed 2010 campaign for governor, to run the congressional campaign. Hultgren had pledged a campaign against Walsh that would not get personal but he came out swinging in reaction to the primary challenge.
"I'm disappointed that the congressman from the 8th District has decided to abandon his own district to run against me in a primary," Hultgren said in a statement. "The residents of the 14th District are looking for responsible leadership for the long haul, and know that if we are to turn this country around, fix our economy, and put Americans to work we won't be able to do it through political grandstanding, sound bites and name calling."
Walsh gained notoriety for calling Obama a "liar" and snubbed the president's recent speech on job creation before a joint session of Congress to hold his own town hall meeting back in his district. While Walsh is expected to be able to generate big dollars for his campaign, he could be hampered by questions about his personal finances that grew after his 2010 campaign.
Walsh's former wife alleged in court that he owes more than $117,000 in child support and interest. A Cook County judge ordered Walsh to prove he paid support for his three children. Walsh has declined to comment on the details of the case but said he will make his position clear in court. A hearing is set for Nov. 8.
Republican infighting was inevitable after Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly and governor's office drew new boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts without any input from GOP lawmakers. The mapmaking was required to reflect population changes revealed by the federal Census, but it is also an exercise in raw political power.
The new congressional map, drawn with the help of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, could reverse the outcome of last year's 2010 mid-term elections that gave the GOP an 11-8 majority in the state's U.S. House delegation and sent five freshmen - including Walsh and Hultgren - to Congress.
The new congressional lines extended far out from Democratic-dominated Chicago to the more Republican-leaning suburbs, creating two unpalatable scenarios for many Republicans: run against a fellow GOP lawmaker in the primary or try to get re-elected in largely unfamiliar territory against a Democratic incumbent who already represents many of the voters.
All Republican members of the delegation, except for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, filed suit alleging the new boundaries were unfairly gerrymandered to favor Democrats and fail to give a growing Latino population adequate representation.
Rick Pearson writes for the Chicago Tribune.
Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/09/21/124891/illinois-rep-walsh-to-challenge.html#ixzz1YhLii3pF