One day after being named one of Congress's "most corrupt" representatives by the group Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW), U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) announced that he will run against a fellow Republican in Illinois' 14th District.
The announcement comes as Illinois Republicans are embroiled in a legal battle over redrawn congressional maps--which pushed Walsh's 8th District into a majority-Democratic district. His former playing field was drawn into Illinois' 14th district, which Republican Randy Hultgren currently represents. State Republicans say the Democrat-drawn maps violate the Federal Voting Rights Act, and hope a judge will rule in their favor.
According to the Capitol Fax blog, incumbent congressional Republicans privately agreed to hold off on announcing campaigns or campaign in the newly-drawn districts until the suit is settled--but Walsh apparently ignored that agreement, telling supporters he is a Tea Party member first and a Republican second.
"No matter which map prevails, I've decided to run for re-election from the district in which I live and where I represent most of my current constituents," Walsh said in a letter to supporters. "If the Democrat map stands, I will be running in what is the new 14th district which entails a good portion of Lake County, almost all of McHenry County, Kane County, Kendall County, and some of Will and DeKalb Counties. I live in McHenry and my current District office is in Northern Lake County. This area is home."
In an interview with NBC Chicago earlier this month, Rep. Hultgren disagreed with Walsh's decision to skip President Obama's jobs speech, and said the American people are tired of hearing from only those who "shout the loudest."
"[Attending a joint session of Congress is] part of our job," he said. "I respect the office. I disagree with different people who have held that office. The fact is, we need to find ways to work together. I think it's important for me to hear the president's ideas, hopefully find some things that we can work together on. The items that we're going to passing that will impact job creation need to go through the House, they need to go through the Senate, and they need the president to sign them. When I served in Springfield, the entire 12 years I was there, I was in the minority party, so I could not pass anything with bipartisan support, without building relationships. People are tired of personality battles, or who shouts the loudest. They want solutions."
While it wasn't a direct attack on Walsh, Hultgren's potential opponent is one of the loudest shouters in Washington. Walsh is a regular guest on cable news shows, and has been mentioned 148 times on national news broadcasts since taking office, according to NBC Chicago. But, as the Huffington Post reported Tuesday, those mentions have not always been positive.
Walsh was recently sued by his ex-wife who claims he owes her more than $100,000 in unpaid child support, and CREW accused the congressman of failing to accurately disclose income and liabilities on his personal financial disclosure forms. He has also been accused of excessive spending by former campaign staff and sued by a former campaign manager for unpaid salary.
Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat who was prepared to run against Walsh in the 8th District, told the Huffington Post Wednesday that many Illinois voters have "buyers remorse" when it comes to Walsh.
"His actions, his votes, run totally contrary to the interest of middle class job creation and reviving and resuscitating the economy," Krishnamoorthi said, adding that Walsh took a "290 vote victory as a mandate" to pursue an agenda that is not in line with the district he represents.
In his announcement, Walsh said it would be "unfortunate" if he had to run against Hultgren, but added that "the new 14th District, if it stands, doesn't belong to any Incumbent or any politician."
"I said during the Campaign that I am a tea party conservative first, and a Republican second," Walsh said. "You see, I believe the tea party movement is bigger than either party -- it consists of every American frustrated, concerned, angry and scared with how big government is getting and the debt we're placing on ourselves and future generations."
Hultgren told the Capitol Fax blog on Wednesday that he was "disappointed" that Walsh decided to run against him, and said he is "playing into the hands of Springfield Democrats" by doing so. He said new district maps were drawn "specifically to encourage just such a contest" and once again brought up Walsh's history of showmanship.
“The residents of the 14th District are looking for responsible leadership for the long haul, and know that if we are to turn this country around, fix our economy, and put Americans back to work we won’t be able to do it through political grandstanding, sound bites, and name calling," Hultgren said. "Winning the challenge before us takes commitment, experience, and a long term view."