U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party favorite, says he will run for reelection next year in the redrawn 8th District, rather than challenge a fellow Republican in a primary contest:
Walsh, who was elected to his first term last year in a district in the north and northwest suburbs, said he’ll run next year in the newly-drawn 8th District, which is closer to Chicago and covers areas more favorable to Democrats than the one he currently represents.
When Illinois Democrats redrew the state’s congressional map this year, Walsh was moved into the 14th District, where he would have to challenge another freshman Republican, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)
Judges threw out a Republican challenge to the map earlier this week. That left Walsh with two options: Battle Hultgren for the Republican nomination, or move to a district that’s closer to Chicago in areas more favorable to Democrats.
After first signaling he would challenge Hultgren in the Illinois 14th District, Walsh said Thursday that he would move to the new 8th District.
At a Tea Party meeting Thursday night at the Cubby Bear in Wrigleyville, Walsh said he had consulted family, supporters and party leaders. “Many Republican leaders” had urged him to change districts, he said in an email to supporters.
“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,” Walsh said. “The idea of ceding this seat to the Democrats just felt wrong and someone needed to step up to the challenge.”
Walsh said he thought his new home had a “silent majority of voters” who were receptive to his message.
Walsh defeated three-term incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean in a stunning upset in the 2010 midterm elections and has served in Congress since January 2011. Though he received little support from the GOP party establishment, Walsh was backed by local Tea Party organizations.
Walsh, fresh out of the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1985, pursued an acting career, taking lessons in stage, theater and television at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. He later returned to academia and earned a Masters degree in Public Policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies in 1991.
He worked with the Jobs for Youth program in Chicago’s inner city, teaching high school dropouts basic academic and job skills. He later taught American government and American history at Oakton Community College and the Hebrew Theological College.
Walsh ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 and for the Illinois General Assembly in 1998. At first a moderate Republican in the 1990s, Walsh became a conservative and a Tea Party movement activist in recent years. He worked on state and local government policy issues for libertarian think tank The Heartland Institute and helped launch fiscally conservative organizations such as the Legislative Education Action Drive and Americans for Limited Government, groups dedicated to limited government and electing fiscal conservatives to state legislatures. Walsh has also done consulting work with the United Republican Fund, an Illinois-state PAC helping to elect GOP state legislators.