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During a Tea Party event in Chicago on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh announced that he will once again run for office in Illinois' 8th District -- which has changed quite a bit since he ran in 2010.
When Democrats created new congressional maps, pushing Walsh's 8th District into a Democrat-leaning area, the outspoken congressman planned to take on fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, in the 14th District -- where he now resides. But on Thursday, Walsh said he would be "up to the challenge" of running in a less conservative district, and said the "idea of ceding this seat to the Democrats just felt wrong."
Walsh told supporters he still hopes a federal court will rule in favor of Illinois Republicans, who have filed a lawsuit challenging the Democrat-drawn map saying it is unfair to GOP voters and minorities. His confidence in the courts to do so, however, might be waning. Just one day before he announced he would run in the 8th, a panel of federal judges tossed the GOP lawsuit. Republican leaders are now deciding whether or not to appeal.
"It didn't feel right to me to stay out in the 14th in a nice, safe, Republican district [and] take on another Republican in a primary, when the Democrats have drawn an 8th District ... my current district ... and reconfigured it to be very Democratic and we Republicans are just gonna let that seat go," Walsh said Thursday night. "It didn't feel right. Because one thing we know is, whoever that Democratic nominee is ... he or she is on the wrong side of this historic fight. So, that fight is my fight."
One of two popular Democrats will take on Walsh in the 8th, pending the results of a primary battle. Progressive Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi has previously called Walsh "unelectable." The young and energetic Krishnamoorthi worked for Barack Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign and served as an advisor to Obama's presidential campaign in 2008. Tammy Duckworth, former director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs in combat, is also running in the 8th. Duckworth has been endorsed by Sen. Dick Durbin and Obama advisor David Axelrod.
Krishnamoorthi also has dozens of local elected officials and grassroots volunteers working to get him elected, and has been endorsed by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.
In a statement following Walsh's announcement, Krishnamoorthi slammed Walsh for voting against payroll tax cut extensions.
"Joe Walsh's vote literally takes $1,000 out of the pockets of 6.5 million Illinois families. That's wrong and it hurts small businesses that are the backbone of our economy," Krishnamoorthi said. "Joe Walsh and the Tea Party claim that the Democratic agenda is a job-killing agenda. As a job creator and the president of a local small business, I am the only candidate with the economic and business credibility needed to challenge that assertion both on the campaign trail and in the halls of Congress.”
Duckworth also issued a statement, saying that "Walsh should know that I've never backed down from a fight in my life" and that she would not back down from this one.
"Joe Walsh’s antics won't solve our country's economic crisis," Duckworth said. "It won't protect seniors on Medicare, ensure Veterans have access to the benefits they have earned, or help families afford college. The economic challenges we face right now require us to find practical solutions. I am running to replace Rep. Joe Walsh in the 8th district because the residents here want a Member of Congress who will find practical solutions, not defend rigid ideology."
Before he can even take on Duckworth or Krishnamoorthi, Walsh will face DuPage Regional Superintendent of Education Darlene Ruscitti or Barrington businessman Andrew Palomo in a March GOP primary, NBC Chicago reports.
Walsh, however, said to a cheering crowd of Tea Partiers that he believes most Republicans, independents and even some Democrats in the 8th relate to the Tea Party and will support his campaign.
"You either believe in a freedom loving America, or you believe in Barack Obama's America, where everything is dependent upon big government and we spend away our futures," Walsh said. "Most Americans I believe are with us .. I refuse to believe that most Americans want to be dependent upon government and lose their freedoms. I will not believe it. And this run in the 8th will prove we're right."