The anti-gay current representative of the 8th congressional district of Illinois faces a tight battle for reelection to the U.S. House in November, and is being challenged by LGBT advocate Tammy Duckworth.
The district — led by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) — recently received a superlative from the National Journal as the third most likely to be surrendered to an opposition party.
The only districts more likely than Walsh’s to change hands, according to the report, both have representatives who will be retiring. This is bad news for Walsh, a Tea Party Republican, who was elected just last year.
Duckworth, Walsh’s Democratic competition, serves as an antithesis to Walsh on many issues. Walsh has been quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times as supporting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
“I believe that DOMA is constitutional and that society and government should protect marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman,” Walsh said.
However, Duckworth — the former Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and former director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs — fully supports the civil rights of LGBT individuals.
In a statement, Duckworth talked about her experience in the military — where she lost both of her legs and part of the use of her right arm when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down — and how it shaped her views on gay marriage. Her husband was able to make major medical decisions when she could not and she feels that everyone should have that same right.
“I support the freedom to marry because everyone deserves the same level of access, support and love,” she said in a statement. “As a Member of Congress, I will work tirelessly to support the LGBT community and push for total equality.”
For Duckworth, social justice comes before political gain.
“My stance (on LGBT rights) is based on my conscience,” she said. “I don’t know whether it is good or bad (politically), but it is the right thing to do.”
Polling data from the House Majority PAC — a leading Democratic Super PAC — shows only 28 percent of voters approve of Walsh’s job performance and he trails Duckworth 49-35 in polls. The numbers forecast a bleak outlook for Walsh’s reelection campaign.
Recently, Walsh received backlash for statements he made about Duckworth, now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, and her military service. He accused her of talking too much about her military service, statements Duckworth resented.
“He is irresponsible in his words and actions,” she said, adding, “[He is] a poster child for the Tea Party.”
If Walsh — “the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country” according to the House Majority PAC — continues to make outlandish statements, November’s election may be even bleaker than the forecast.