As a House committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of court, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh reminded voters that he was among the first in Washington to call for Holder's resignation -- a move that could become an issue in Walsh's election battle against Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
Top Democrats have described the GOP's work to hold Holder in contempt as a sort of witch hunt. But for now, Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, a former member of the Obama administration, is staying silent -- a move experts say may help her avoid a political minefield.
"It's not clear exactly how this is going to play out at this point," said Kent Redfield, political science professor at the University of Illinois Springfield. "Whereas, Walsh is pretty clear where he is in terms of his position, and the more he nationalizes the race ... the better off he is."
Walsh, a McHenry Tea Partyer, last fall was among the first members of Congress to call for Holder to resign over his role in problems with the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program. In that program, the government lost track of many of the weapons it was supposed to be tracking -- two of which were found at the scene of the slaying of a U.S. Border Agent.
The House Government Oversight and Reform Committee -- of which Walsh is a member -- Wednesday afternoon voted along party lines, 23-17, to hold Holder in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the scandal. It now goes to the House floor for a full vote.
The committee's vote came after the Obama administration claimed executive privilege over the records.
Walsh called the Fast and Furious program "tragically and criminally" flawed.
"I was the first to put in writing that he's got to resign," Walsh said of Holder.
Walsh also said Obama's use of executive privilege "opens up a host of issues of what he knew when."
As to the committee's vote on holding Holder in contempt, Walsh said, "we have no other option. The government did something very, very bad. We're trying to find an answer."
Duckworth could not be reached for comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Kaitlin Fahey said.
The redrawn 8th District contains about 55 percent of the former 6th District where Duckworth unsuccessfully ran against Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Wheaton in 2006 -- the portion where she was strongest.
It also contains about 20 percent of Walsh's current Northwest suburban district in Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put the 8th District at the top of its list of 25 key races that will help Democrats take back the House majority. And Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen.
While Walsh brands Duckworth as someone who can't make a move without consulting top Democratic strategists, Redfield says Duckworth will make an issue of how Walsh relates to the district. The Holder issue could have an impact as Duckworth looks to cast Walsh as a Tea Party extremist.
"So if this goes away, she probably won't do a lot with it," Redfield said.
If it doesn't, he said, "the narrative continues that (Walsh's) focus is on national politics and confrontation."