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Tammy Duckworth wins, sets up high-profile battle with Joe Walsh

Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishamoorthi


U.S. House District 8
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Updated: March 20, 2012 11:36PM

Tammy Duckworth’s win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in a northwest suburban congressional district sets up what could be one of the nation’s most high-profile contests in November against freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh.

The outspoken Walsh is a favorite of national Tea Party activists, but Duckworth — who lost her legs in a combat helicopter crash in Iraq — long has been a rising star among the state’s powerful Democrats. Her status grew Tuesday with her landslide victory against Raja Krishnamoorthi, a former deputy state treasurer.

With 92 percent of the vote counted, Duckworth had 67 percent of the vote to Krishnamoorthi’s 33 percent.

“We are on our way to take on Joe Walsh,” said Duckworth, in a skirt that revealed her two prosthetic legs — one decorated in red, white and blue, the other wrapped in camouflage. Duckworth, who took the stage with the aid of a cane, made reference to her military experience: “I’m only here today because of my buddies in Iraq, and now every day I strive to be worthy of their effort.”

Duckworth sought to portray herself as the “practical” choice in the general election, labeling Walsh as “extreme.”

“Tea Party members like Joe Walsh ... are breaking a promise to the American people,” she said. “They want to pull the rug out from under seniors so they can protect tax cuts for wealthy Americans.”

Reached by phone after Duckworth’s victory speech, Walsh told the Sun-Times that he was “looking forward to a very spirited campaign.” Despite being an incumbent, Walsh said he was an outsider fighting special interests and described Duckworth as a Washington insider.

He knocked Duckworth’s ties to President Barack Obama.

“You have a district where people are out of work and she is partners with a president who just proposed a budget that never balances,” Walsh said.

Duckworth’s primary campaign was backed by some of the most powerful Democrats in the state, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and top Obama adviser David Axelrod.

Walsh invited Duckworth to series of monthly debates that would begin in April, saying, “I don’t want her to hide behind David Axelrod and all of her Chicago handlers.”

Walsh, who was part of the large class of new Republican congressmen elected in 2010, was unopposed in the GOP primary.

Krishnamoorthi congratulated Duckworth on an “excellent campaign.”

“I think the voters highly prized an American hero, as they should,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I think Joe Walsh is in trouble.”

Duckworth narrowly lost a bid for Congress in 2006. Since that defeat, she has served as director of the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs and as an assistant secretary of veterans affairs in the Obama administration. She returned from Washington to seek the nomination in the newly redrawn 8th District.

State Democrats have tailored the district to their benefit, including favorable turf in Schaumburg, Elgin, Carpentersville, Lombard, Bensenville and Wheeling.

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