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Duckworth unseats Walsh in much-watched suburban race for Congress

Election 2012: Complete coverage
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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:16AM



In one of the nation’s most expensive, most hostile and most closely watched Congressional races, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraqi War veteran, defeated Tea Party-backed Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District campaign.

Duckworth declared victory shortly after 10 p.m.

“I would never have been able to do this without your incredible support,” a beaming Duckworth told more than 200 cheering supporters at her victory party at a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove Village. “You, my friends, stood with me when others tried to buy this election.”

She said she had just gotten a call from Walsh, who was “very gracious” in conceding defeat.

In her victory speech, Duckworth talked about her father, who died while she was recovering from her war wounds.

“I know he would be proud of me right now,” she said.

In a concession speech to supporters gathered at the Medinah Shrine Center in Addison, Walsh said: “I lost. Oh, my gosh, I’m going to cry tonight. I lost a battle. And you all know me well. I put every bone I’ve got into this battle.

“We lost the election. We lost this battle tonight, but, so help me God, we fight. We are in a fight, and i know the other side doesn’t like to hear these words, but we are in a fight to return this country to the principles it was founded on, That is a fight I am not giving up on . . . It’s going to take a while to win.

“I believe we are preciously close to losing the greatest thing God has ever put on this earth — it’s called America. That is something all of us — Republicans, independents and Democrats — better fight for long and hard.”

Earlier, as the vote totals began trickling in, Duckworth did a series of television interviews Tuesday evening, including one in Thai.

She watched the results come in with her husband Bryan and mother Lamai while wearing a purple dress and an American flag scarf draped around one of her prosthetic legs.

Duckworth’s brother, Tom, a veteran and a Harley mechanic, was at the gathering in Elk Grove Village and called his sister an “inspiration.”

“When she’s told no, she will find her way around it,” he said.

Walsh watched the results from an Addison hotel with his wife and four children.

Going into Tuesday’s election, polls showed Duckworth ahead. One — taken last week by We Ask America, an affiliate of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association — showed her ahead of Walsh by nearly 10 percentage points.

Their campaign devolved into a nasty effort that inundated Chicago’s television airwaves with a non-stop roll of commercials.

In hers, Duckworth attacked Walsh as an extremist for his no-exceptions, anti-abortion stand and as a “deadbeat dad” who’d owed more than $100,000 in child-support payments to his ex-wife while vacationing in Europe.

Duckworth, 44, of Hoffman Estates, refused to yank the ad even as Walsh’s family implored her to do so, and his son, Joey Walsh, did a campaign spot for him in which he asked Duckworth to stop attacking their family.

Walsh, 50, also used a multimillion-dollar infusion from right-wing political action committees Now or Never PAC and FreedomWorks to fund link her to imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, though she wasn’t caught up in the scandal that sent him to prison.

After losing a 2006 congressional bid to U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Duckworth was appointed by Blagojevich as secretary of the state Veteran Affairs Department.

During his campaign, Walsh portrayed himself as “Public Enemy No. 1” to Democrats. And he slammed Duckworth for being the beneficiary of a brazen political deal allegedly brokered by presidential adviser David Axelrod, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Walsh claimed they targeted him in a remap that pushed him out of his old congressional district and placed him into a heavily Democratic district — an assertion Duckworth blithely dismissed as “lies.”

On Monday, robocalls went out to voters from President Barack Obama urging people to vote for Duckworth. Obama carried the district in 2008 with 62 percent of the vote over Republican John McCain.

Last week, before his robocall to Eighth District voters, Obama endorsed Duckworth along with two other Democratic candidates running in the Chicago suburbs — Brad Schneider and Bill Foster.

Among those voting Tuesday, Graham McNamee, 73, of Schaumburg said he went for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney along with Walsh, who was first elected in 2010 and has been a fierce critic of Obama. McNamee said he voted Republican because “the shifting of political ideals toward socialism scares me.”

Terry Mills, a 37-year-old wire-transfer clerk from Hoffman Estates, said she voted for Obama and Duckworth.

“The middle class is most important right now,” Mill said, and “Obama knows what is right for the middle class.”

Duckworth, she added, “really has what it takes to get things done. Her views on taxes are excellent.”

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick, Rummana Hussain, AP



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