WASHINGTON---Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) decided to bypass a potentially tough GOP primary against Rep. Randy Hultgren and run instead in a more Democratic district where next November he will face either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi, Walsh announced on Thursday.
Presuming the very outspoken Walsh wins the March primary for the nomination, his decision sets up a big general election contest for the new northwest suburban 8th congressional district seat.
Walsh originally had said he would run for re-election next year from the new 14th district, putting him on a collision course with fellow freshman Hultgren. With only nominal Democratic opposition in the 14th so far, Walsh's move gives Hultgren a running start toward a second term in a district drawn for a Republican win.
"While I was encouraged by the enthusiasm I received from folks all across the 14th District, I felt at this time, with this unjust map, I had to stand up and fight. The idea of ceding this seat to the Democrats just felt wrong and someone needed to step up to the challenge," Walsh said in a statement.
Walsh made his announcement at a Tea Party meeting in Wrigeleyville, at the Cubby Bear bar on Chicago's North Side.
Duckworth and Krishnamoorthi, locked in their own primary battle, until now faced only nominal GOP opposition.
The Democratic-drawn remap of congressional districts was designed to pit Republicans against each other and make the new 8th Democratic-friendly turf. In switching to the 8th, Walsh ensures his political career survives for longer while creating a contest against Duckworth, who has a national profile, or Krishnamoorthi.
Walsh narrowly won his current 8th Congressional District seat in 2010 by defeating Rep. Melissa Bean without national party support. In running from the newly-drawn 8th, Walsh wanted and apparently got some national backing. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions said: "Joe Walsh gives Republicans the best opportunity to win the 8th District."
"The people here want a member of Congress who is going to look for practical solutions to the problems that they are facing. They are not looking for a member of Congress to be a poster child of the Tea Party," Duckworth said.
"I welcome the chance to contrast the Democratic agenda for job creation with Joe Walsh's ideology-driven opposition to helping working families and the middle class," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.