CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Illinois Democrats went on the attack during the first day of the national convention Tuesday, targeting suburban congressional races as key to their 2012 success.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky singled out the 8th Congressional District race, calling Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh "an embarrassment to the United States Congress."
The rallying comes as Walsh's opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, is set to take the main convention stage later today to offer praise for President Barack Obama.
Schakowsky, of Evanston, told the Illinois delegation during a breakfast meeting that Duckworth's race -- as well as bids by Democrat Bill Foster of Naperville against U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale in the 11th District and the race between Democrat Brad Schneider of Deerfield and U.S. Rep. Robert Dold of Kenilworth in the 10th District -- is key to the party's success nationwide.
"(Duckworth's) opponent, I believe, is an embarrassment to the United States Congress and the Republican Party," Schakowsky said.
Foster was on hand for the remarks while Schneider has skipped the convention to campaign back home
Walsh, of McHenry, shot back, noting that Gov. Pat Quinn called him the "worst congressman in America" at a similar Democratic breakfast in Springfield last month.
"It is sad that first Gov. Quinn and now Schakowsky are acting like children with their name calling, while this state falls of a fiscal cliff," Walsh said in a statement. "I would encourage Jan to join me in fixing the fiscal problems of Illinois and this country instead of spending all of her time on political name calling."
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also took the breakfast podium, seeking to highlight differences between Democrats and the GOP on matters of union support, women's issues and immigration.
"It's not blue states that are passing draconian, anti-immigrant legislation," she said.
Union support is a mainstay for the Democratic Party, a relationship that could be suffering as Quinn and others talk of cutting pension benefits for teachers and state workers.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery -- also a delegate from Schakowsky's district -- addressed that issue at the breakfast, however indirectly.
"I think we do need to restrengthen those bonds," he said. "I would like to see more support for labor in the Democratic Party."
Quinn and Duckworth are set to speak before the national convention later today.