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Tammy Duckworth, Joe Walsh's Winning Opponent, Says 2012 Voters Rejected Extremism

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TAMMY DUCKWORTH
Tammy Duckworth, Democratic nominee for Illinois' 8th Congressional District, celebrates with husband Bryan Bowlsbey after defeating Rep. Joe Walsh in Elk Grove Village, Ill., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) | AP

WASHINGTON -- It’s been just under a week since Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican Rep. Joe Walsh after a heated contest for Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, but according to Duckworth, voters sent Washington a message last Tuesday that could not be more clear: Americans do not want to be represented by voices of extremism.

Duckworth’s opponent was a Tea Party favorite known for controversial statements that often attracted national attention. Walsh was one of the few Republicans to support Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) over his comments on “legitimate rape,” and caused his own controversy when he said that there should be no abortion exception for the life of the mother due to “advances in science and technology.” He also infamously declared that Muslims were “trying to kill Americans every week,” and accused Duckworth -- a double amputee Iraq War veteran -- of not being a “true hero.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Duckworth said her victory was an indication that voters are looking for moderate voices that will bring people together -- not divisive rhetoric that alienates key constituencies and only accentuates the differences among both political parties.

“In this race, Mr. Walsh proceeded to insult just about everyone in the district, and [there were] a series of things he said that just were not reflective of where people were,” Duckworth said. “All he was doing was speaking in an extreme way about groups of people and trying to isolate people [and] work them against each other, and so people realized that’s who he really was.”

Ultimately, that realization led to Duckworth unseating Walsh by capturing 55 percent of the vote and becoming the first Asian American from Illinois elected to Congress. Close to $6.6 million in outside spending was poured into the race, including $2.7 million on the part of conservative super PACs in attack ads against Duckworth.

Asked if the outcome of her race had any implications for the GOP moving forward, Duckworth said Walsh’s defeat -- coupled with the loss of a number of Tea Party candidates -- was a rebuke by voters of the extremism that has, in recent years, undermined the Republican Party’s appeal.

“I think they got the message from the constituency, certainly in this district, that extremism is not what the people want,” Duckworth said. “What people want nationally is someone who is going to get to work and not someone who is going to take a partisan position over the needs of the people. I hope that’s the message [Republicans] get, and I think in Illinois the voters sent a pretty strong message that what they want is moderates.”

And with fewer radical members of Congress, Duckworth is hopeful more people will work across the aisle and be open to compromise in the upcoming fiscal cliff negotiations.

“I hope the priority is first and foremost that they deal with sequestration in this lame duck session -- and if they don’t, the next Congress that I’m going to be part of is going to have to deal with it, and we absolutely have to compromise,” Duckworth said. “It’s beneficial that folks like Mr. Walsh who are so extreme and were not willing to compromise are no longer going to be a part of the process. I’m hoping that means more moderate voices on both sides can step forward and broker an agreement.”

“That’s where I’m going to be focusing my energy -- finding folks that I can work with,” she added.

Recently, it was reported that Walsh is considering a gubernatorial run as his next move. When asked for her reaction, Duckworth let out a hearty laugh that went on for several seconds.

“Walsh has a history of running for office and failing,” she said. “If he thinks his extremist rhetoric is going to win over the state, then it’s a free country and he’s welcome to try it. But boy, that he’s talking about running for governor, I think, is pretty amazing.”

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