Steakhouse owner doesn't want to be 'Joe the Plumber' of 8th District
After becoming the subject of an offered bet in the energetic debate between Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh and Democrat Tammy Duckworth this week, Chicago Prime Steakhouse in Schaumburg was overwhelmed by media calls.
On Friday, managing partner Andy-John Kalkounos released a statement saying President Barack Obama's health care plan could hurt his business. Despite that, he said in an interview he doesn't want to be perceived as a partisan, favoring one side of the debate or another.
"I don't want to be Joe the Plumber," Kalkounos told the Daily Herald Friday, referring to the polarizing Ohio plumber who came up in a 2008 presidential debate.
The issue came up in Tuesday's debate in Rolling Meadows when Walsh, of McHenry, said he'd give Duckworth $2,500 for her campaign if the owners of the steakhouse where both had independently met with local business owners didn't want to repeal Obama's health care law.
Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, dismissed the offer as "classic Joe Walsh grandstanding."
Kalkounos, in his statement, said, "Plainly speaking the Affordable Health Care Act, as I understand it to be written, is NOT affordable to this small business.
"The math is simple, these new rules are creating costs for businesses like our own who already struggle in this economy and we have to treat it as any other expense and attempt to curtail it as much as possible.
"I can say that I am assuaged by the fact that both Ms. Duckworth and Mr. Walsh agree that our restaurant will suffer under the new changes implemented by the AHCA and they both want to do something about it," he added.
Kalkounos said Friday he released the statement because all the media calls were distracting him from running a restaurant.
While Kalkounos made clear his distaste for the health care plan, Walsh's spokesman nevertheless declined to comment on whether Walsh would have won the bet.
Duckworth's spokeswoman didn't return a request for comment.
The race for the 8th Congressional District has become one of the most contentious in the country, as this week's debate displayed for local voters and the national media alike.
The district includes portions of northwest Cook, eastern Kane and central DuPage counties.
Although the $2,500 is apparently unlikely to change hands, both campaigns are seeing an influx of campaign cash, with outside donors airing TV ads on both sides, pumping millions of dollars of spending into race.
As for Kalkounos, he thanked both candidates for coming to his restaurant and invited more customers to follow suit, no matter whom they're voting for. He said he had a lot of respect for both Walsh and Duckworth for fighting in the political trenches.
"You've got to hand it to them," Kalkounos said. "These people care.