Monday's Schaumburg Business Association breakfast was the latest event displaying the contrast in campaign strategies between 8th District congressional candidates Tammy Duckworth and Joe Walsh.
Walsh, the incumbent McHenry Republican known for his flamboyant speaking style, complained that he and his opponent spoke separately -- a setup Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, prefers.
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"Thank you for inviting us to debate," Walsh told a room full of local business leaders, shortly after Duckworth, who had spoken moments earlier, had left the room. "I'm sad that didn't come off. Eleven to 12 groups have invited us to debate, and she (Duckworth) said no to each one of them."
Duckworth, spokeswoman Kaitlin Fahey said, "would rather listen to voters than hear more of Joe Walsh's extreme and partisan rhetoric." She described four joint appearances by Duckworth and Walsh as "ample opportunity to evaluate the candidates."
The two have already debated twice, more than candidates in other heated congressional races in the area. In the 11th Congressional District, Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale and Democrat Bill Foster of Batavia have debated only once. Tenth District Republican Congressman Robert Dold of Kenilworth and Democratic opponent Brad Schneider of Deerfield have yet to debate.
Duckworth and Walsh are scheduled to debate at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows Oct. 9 and on WTTW-TV's "Chicago Tonight" on Oct. 18.
Walsh, who shortly after the March primary challenged Duckworth to one debate a month, has made his opponent's availability to debate him a cornerstone of his campaign.
Residents in the 8th Congressional District -- roughly centered in Schaumburg and stretching from Addison to Elgin -- frequently receive robocalls from Walsh that denounce Duckworth for declining to attend events with him.
The Schaumburg Business Association forum, moderated by Daily Herald Assistant Managing Editor for Opinion Jim Slusher, saw both candidates questioned over congressional bipartisanship, the country's escalating debt and health care reform.
Organizers, according to email exchanges, had initially asked Walsh and Duckworth to appear jointly and answer a series of questions before the audience. Duckworth's campaign requested the candidates appear separately, a request officials ultimately granted.
The forum was far different from last month's Fox News debate, when Walsh physically poked Duckworth while making a point and muttered under his breath as she answered questions.
On Monday, Duckworth appeared at ease as she sat in an armchair onstage, arguing against Medicare vouchers and outlining a need for more bipartisanship in Washington.
Walsh, on the other hand, could not stay seated, popping out of his chair several times, arms wildly gesticulating as he spoke about repealing Obamacare and vowed to vote against every debt ceiling extension that might come his way.
The newly drawn 8th District contains about 55 percent of the former 6th District where Duckworth ran against Republican Congressman 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 and McHenry counties.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put the 8th District at the top of its list of 25 key races that would help Democrats take back the House majority.