Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates is preparing her speech for one of politics' biggest stages at the Democratic National Convention today.
But Duckworth's campaign for Congress back home in the Chicago suburbs is so contentious that even her very appearance in Charlotte, N.C., this week has drawn criticism from her opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, who portrays her as a political insider out of tune with the average person.
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Democratic National Convention HighlightsThe Democratic National Convention gets under way today in Charlotte, N.C., with speakers including first lady Michelle Obama, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, 8th Congressional District challenger Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, and keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Here's where to watch:
Ÿ ABC, NBC and CBS will begin coverage from the convention floor at 9 p.m.
Ÿ CNN will start coverage at 3 p.m.
Ÿ CSPAN plans coverage all day.
Ÿ Fox News begins coverage at 9 p.m.
Ÿ MSNBC coverage begins at 6 p.m.
Ÿ PBS will begin coverage at 7 p.m.
Ÿ Many sources, including the major networks, news networks, CSPAN and PBS will stream convention events live online all day.
Follow the Daily Herald's election coverage online at dailyherald.com/news/politics/election.
Duckworth says she's not running from her ties to President Barack Obama and other top Democrats as she vies for a seat from the 8th Congressional District. For one, top Obama strategist David Axelrod helped get her campaign for U.S. House going after she left her post last year as assistant secretary for veteran's affairs in Washington, D.C.
Duckworth tells voters that connections, when trying to get things done in government, can be important.
"I think it's good that I have those relationships," she said.
"It doesn't mean that I'll agree with everything the president wants," Duckworth added.
Walsh skipped his party's national convention last week in Tampa and challenged Duckworth to do the same, saying it was more important to be in the 8th District, which includes parts of Northwest Cook County, central DuPage County and eastern Kane County.
"I came to Washington to serve the people of my district and reclaim our country from the growth of government," Walsh said in a statement after Duckworth's convention speaking role was announced. "Rather than mingle with party insiders in Tampa, I will be in the 8th District to continue to serve as an independent voice for the people."
The 8th District race is in the national periscope as one Democrats have targeted in their efforts to regain the U.S. House. Walsh's unapologetic bluntness helps keep it there, like his statement that "real heroes" don't talk about their military service as Duckworth often talks about hers.
Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War who lost both legs after the helicopter she was piloting was shot down, has responded to Walsh's comments at every turn and suggests he needs to moderate some of what he says.
"When you become an elected official, you speak with the authority of your seat," she said.
Both candidates have suffered some lumps. Walsh was elected for the first time in 2010, following reports of a foreclosure on his Evanston condominium and state and federal liens for unpaid taxes. In December 2010, his former wife filed a lawsuit alleging Walsh had failed to pay nearly $100,000 in child support payments, an issue they resolved this spring out of court.
Last month, a Daily Herald investigation showed that Duckworth claimed homeowner exemptions on her property taxes for two different houses at the same time, which isn't allowed. After a reporter pointed out the error, Duckworth paid about $2,500 in back taxes and late fees.
Duckworth isn't a stranger to a strenuous campaign for Congress. Her race in 2006 against Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton -- then a state senator -- was one of the most expensive and most watched in the country, perhaps even more so than the current campaign.
As of the end of June, Walsh and Duckworth were neck and neck in the campaign cash race, with each having between $700,000 and $800,000 on hand. Political parties and independent political committees also are sure to spend on each candidate's behalf.
Duckworth's bid is one of three Democratic congressional pushes in the suburbs -- along with Brad Schneider's contest with U.S. Rep. Robert Dold in the 10th District and Bill Foster's race with U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert in the 11th -- with big implications for both parties.
"Our three races are definitely on the radar of Republican Tea Party Super PACs," Duckworth said.
The New Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United Super PACs are working for Walsh's re-election, while CREDO Super PAC is active on behalf of Duckworth.
Those Super PACs can't vote, though.
Democrats in the 8th District hope that voters' dismay at gridlock in Congress will fall at Walsh's feet in November. Obama convention delegate Cristina Castro of Elgin said she thinks Walsh's headline-grabbing comments fuel the perception that lawmakers can't compromise.
"When you talk to people, you can sense the frustration," Castro said.