Joe Walsh may not be a congressman anymore, but on his first day back in the suburbs, the former 8th District representative made it clear that voters haven't heard the last from him.
Walsh, who was defeated in November by Tammy Duckworth, got a warm reception from more than 100 members of the Arlington Heights Tea Party, where he spoke Thursday night.
Reflecting on the past few years, Walsh said he felt like he'd been on a battlefield since he was first elected in 2010.
"After I lost on Nov. 6, I had to go back to work, so I haven't had time to get sad or think about the election. It didn't really hit me until this week," he said.
But instead of looking back, Walsh said he is focused on the future, including his own political future.
"I'm going to travel around the state and talk to as many people as I can, and then I'm going to decide if I'm going to run for something in 2014," he said, alluding to rumors of a run for governor.
Walsh said he plans to start "a movement" in Illinois of people who share his beliefs in smaller government and personal responsibility.
Walsh said his own Republican Party is part of the problem, both in Washington and in Springfield.
That includes the many Republicans who voted for the fiscal cliff deal earlier this week; Walsh cast his last vote in the U.S. House against the deal.
"Republicans are afraid to do what's right because it's hard and they want to get re-elected," he said. "As a country, we get the government we deserve, and we've fallen off the job. Those knuckleheads in Washington are a reflection on us."
Walsh said that if he were a member of the 113th Congress, he would not have voted for Rep. John Boehner, who was elected to a second term as speaker of the House by a slim margin Thursday.
He called for a "cleanse" of the Republican Party, also naming state GOP Chairman Pat Brady, who this week broke ranks and encouraged members of his party to support a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.
He called same-sex marriage "the toughest issue" Republicans face because, while he believes the government should stay out of people's lives, he maintains that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
As far as gun control, Walsh continued to voice his support for Second Amendment rights.
"Standing in front of you as your former congressman, I would feel a lot more comfortable if you were all packing," he said, calling the fact that Illinois is the only state without concealed carry "an embarrassment."
Although Walsh said no one was waiting to give him big hugs as he left Washington this week, he said the Tea Party movement is not over. The politician who is known for being outspoken didn't shy away from that reputation and said he'll be back in Arlington Heights in a few months and encouraged everyone at the meeting to bring four friends.
"I don't know, maybe a guy like me can never get elected again, maybe I have too big of a mouth," Walsh said. "I have no idea what I'm doing in two years, but I want to be a part of the fight."