U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh said there was a specific reason he hosted a town-hall meeting Wednesday night at Wauconda Township's meeting room after his first week in Congress.
Before a standing-room crowd of at least 160 spectators, Walsh said he wanted to honor Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head last weekend while meeting with constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson, Ariz.
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Walsh said little business has been conducted in Congress this week in the wake of Giffords' shooting. He said Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi encouraged representatives to find a way to honor Giffords and the other rampage victims.
"It was clear that what she loved to do is be with her constituents in open public settings," said Walsh, who took questions from the crowd as part of the town hall session.
Walsh said he plans to host open town hall meetings once a week across the 8th Congressional District, which covers a chunk of northwestern Cook County, the western section of Lake County and the eastern portion of McHenry County.
Walsh said he's already encountered his share of threats over e-mail and the telephone, but he won't be deterred by the violence encountered by Giffords.
"And so help me God, speaking for myself, I will not let one 22-year-old, sick, deranged soul change what I do," Walsh said to polite applause from the crowd.
Walsh, a tea party-backed McHenry Republican who edged Democrat Melissa Bean of Barrington for the 8th Congressional District seat in November, touched on issues confronting Congress as well at Wednesday night's gathering:
• He expects representatives to dig in and engage in lively debate about health care next week. "I'm like a broken record," he said. "People like me were sent to Washington to repeal 'Obamacare.'"
• Job creation remains a primary concern and reducing taxes on capital gains and businesses is a way to get it jump-started, Walsh said.
"How do you create jobs? Respectfully, get my government out of the way and let the genius that is America prosper," he said.
• Weighing in on the Illinois legislature's decision to enact mammoth income tax increases on individuals and businesses, Walsh said it'll lead to an exodus of more residents from the state. "Let me just say this as your congressman in the 8th District: Elections matter," he said.
Walsh, Robert Dold, Randy Hultgren and Adam Kinzinger last week joined the House of Representatives' new GOP, representing the largest influx of suburban Republicans in nearly 20 years.