Polar opposites in Walsh, Duckworth
Family: Married, with five children
Education: Master’s in Public Policy, University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy
Lives: Hoffman Estates
Education: Master’s in International Affairs from the George Washington University
Updated: November 2, 2012 10:20AM
With both hands on the lectern in front of him and his wife to his left, Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh carefully read from prepared remarks.
A few minutes later, the cable TV mainstay abruptly walked away from the microphones Oct. 19 and jumped into an SUV, refusing to take any questions.
It was an unusual moment for Walsh, who is typically as unscripted as he is unapologetic about what he says.
It came at the end of an unusual week for the congressman, who found himself trying to quell a firestorm over a remark he made about abortion — an issue he has said wasn’t on the minds of his constituency.
In his Oct. 19 remarks, Walsh declared he wouldn’t back down from his pro-life stance. But he was backing off of remarks he made the night before that medical advances had made the notion of abortion to save a woman’s life a thing of the past.
It was a remark that Walsh likely knew could put him in dangerous territory with women in his newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning 8th Congressional District.
From “lace and petticoats” to battle dress uniform
Using only her left hand to move her wheelchair, Tammy Duckworth quickly whizzed past her staff, up an incline in the parking lot of a long-term facility for children and young adults. Later at a suburban pizza place, Duckworth talked freely about her life — she was an athlete growing up. She competed internationally in discus. She rode a motorcycle.
Her mother, she said, was simply confused by her military ambitions.
“I would come home from training, and I would be in my battle dress uniform, and I’m dragging my mud-sack, and it’s nasty and mildewy, and it’s gross,” Duckworth said, laughing. “She’d look at me and was like: ‘I used to dress you up in lace and petticoats, what is going on?’ ”
Walsh has criticized Duckworth for her time working as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. One TV ad uses her image next to the man who appointed her: now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Walsh also has said that she talks too much about her military experience.
Duckworth shrugs it off.
“It’s kind of like, eh, what’s the worst he can do?” Duckworth said. “Unless someone’s threatening to blow me up, I’m not going to panic. And even when I was blown up, I didn’t panic then.”
Duckworth and Walsh have built national followings for different reasons. Duckworth is a war hero who could be the first Asian American elected to federal office in Illinois.
She lost both legs and partial use of her right arm when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq eight years ago.
Walsh is a hero to the far right, having turned down a federal pension and federal health care and vowing not to serve for more than six years in Congress. But his image suffered from a highly publicized court fight with his ex-wife over more than $100,000 in back child support she said he owed.
Duckworth has had to fend off Walsh’s suggestions that she is a tool of powerful Democratic leaders who, he says, redrew the district specifically for her.
The voters in the 8th District couldn’t have two more different candidates. In contrast to Walsh’s opposition to abortion, Duckworth supports abortion rights.
Walsh opposes gay marriage; Duckworth supports it.
Walsh wants a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act; Duckworth supports it, though she has said she would work to soften the impact on small businesses. Duckworth believes Medicare should be a guarantee. Walsh believes Medicare will go bankrupt if it isn’t overhauled. He believes it should remain in place for those over 55 but those 54 and younger should be given a choice to stay in the system or get a federal subsidy to purchase health-care coverage.