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updated: 9/14/2012 11:19 PM

Radical Islam, immigration key subjects of Walsh-Duckworth debate

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  • Tammy Duckworth, left, opposes Joe Walsh in the 8th Congressional District for the 2012 General Election.

      Tammy Duckworth, left, opposes Joe Walsh in the 8th Congressional District for the 2012 General Election.

  • "They should not be put to the front of the line," Rep. Joe Walsh said about young, law-abiding illegal immigrants. "We need to secure our borders.

      "They should not be put to the front of the line," Rep. Joe Walsh said about young, law-abiding illegal immigrants. "We need to secure our borders.

  • Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth said she favors a "difficult path to citizenship" for qualifying immigrants.

      Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth said she favors a "difficult path to citizenship" for qualifying immigrants.

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

Controversial comments made by Congressman Joe Walsh earlier this summer about "radical Islam's" roots in the suburbs took center stage at the second debate between 8th Congressional District candidates Friday night.

Walsh, of McHenry, defended his statements that a "radical strain" of Islam is a "real threat" in towns big and small across the country, including in Addison, Elgin and Elk Grove Village -- comments that some Muslim-Americans have blamed for a rash of violence in the area.

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Friday, at the 9:30 p.m. live debate on Fox Chicago, the prolific Tea Partyer maintained that "political correctness" is "going to kill this country."

His opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, accused him of propagating fear and hate and isolating the growing number of Muslims in the suburban district centered in Schaumburg and containing portions of Cook, Kane and DuPage counties.

"I think you identifying three specific towns ... puts a lot of Americans at risk," Duckworth said. "The office that you occupy carries a lot of weight. We shouldn't be surprised when extreme words take extreme actions."

This was the second debate for the two candidates -- the Tea Party media darling and the famed Iraq War veteran -- in the race at the very top of Democrats' list in their drive to reclaim the House.

It was evident, once again in the hourlong broadcast, that voters have a clear choice between the two come November.

Along with religious freedom, Walsh and Duckworth also sparred on health care, education and the amount of time each spends in the district. Walsh noted he is home more than "any other congressman" and Duckworth said she "lives in the district and is all over the district" -- a subtle jab at Walsh's residence outside the 8th's boundaries. Unlike state candidates, members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent.

Walsh also attacked President Barack Obama's recent executive order to halt the deportation of younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The district, according to census figures, contains roughly 17 percent of residents who were born overseas, a majority of them Hispanic and Asian.

"They should not be put to the front of the line," Walsh said. "We need to secure our borders. ... The president just stepped all over our constitution and did great harm to this debate."

Duckworth said she favored comprehensive immigration reform and a "difficult path to citizenship" for qualifying immigrants, but did not object to Obama's move.

The next debate is scheduled for Oct. 9 in Rolling Meadows.

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