In his first time talking publicly about the 14th District race since fellow Republican Congressman Joe Walsh declared earlier this week he'd be running in the same district, Randy Hultgren is laying claim to the incumbent title and reveals he had a few private sit-downs with Walsh about the issue that "didn't go anywhere."
In an interview Friday, Hultgren, of Winfield, spoke about running for a second term in the newly drawn 14th District -- comprised predominantly of Kane and McHenry counties -- and his upcoming fight against Walsh in the March primary.
Q. Before 8th District Rep. Joe Walsh's decision to run against you in the 14th District GOP primary, did you two sit down and talk about this, about alternatives, at all?
A. We had talked several different times, but it didn't go anywhere. To me it was very clear that this new district was a vast majority of my current district. I realize the situation that (Walsh) is in, and what Democrats have done, dividing up his current district from the location of his home (which is now in the 14th), but that wasn't a problem for him the first time when he ran against Melissa Bean (and lived outside the 8th District).
Q. Walsh told us earlier this week that he planned to talk to you after his decision. Has that happened yet?
A. He hasn't talked to me. I've seen him a couple times, but we haven't talked directly. I saw him across the room (in the House) and said, "Hey, all the best."
Q. What's your vantage point right now?
A. I still feel very good from the response that we're getting. I'm encouraged. It is disappointing, as we said, having Republicans against Republicans.
Q. Do you consider yourself the "incumbent" in this race?
A. Well, I'm the 14th District congressman now. And I represent the vast majority of this new district.
Q. Political analysts have called this "the" race in the Illinois primary with national significance. How does that shape your campaign strategy?
A. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is the district. Joe (Walsh) and I, we have very different approaches. He's been very focused on national media, I've been focused on talking to you, to local media. We have strong name ID numbers, and people know we're out in the community, and that's what works. That's what people care about. What you're doing locally, that you're focused on what they care about.
Q. Do you feel like the Illinois GOP leaders should have done more to avoid an expensive primary matchup in the 14th?
A. I think they're doing what they need to do. They're focused on the map challenge. ... We've had conversations, but ultimately, at the end of the day, this is his decision.