Duckworth gets some buzz as potential Biden running mate

  • Vice President Joe Biden shares a joke during a practice swearing-in with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, her daughter, Abigail O'kalani Bowlsbey, husband Bryan Bowlsbey and mother, Lamai, in January 2017.

    Vice President Joe Biden shares a joke during a practice swearing-in with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, her daughter, Abigail O'kalani Bowlsbey, husband Bryan Bowlsbey and mother, Lamai, in January 2017. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/22/2020 5:29 PM

Could political lightning strike Illinois twice?

Thirteen years after Barack Obama launched his campaign for president, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth's name is popping up as a potential vice presidential candidate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At a March 15 Democratic presidential debate, front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden announced he intended to slate a woman as his running mate. He previously said he leaned toward either a woman or a person of color in a Washington Post article.

Duckworth, a Thai-American from Hoffman Estates, has both those qualifications and an impressive resume.

"I think there are a number of exciting potential VPs being considered, many of whom are women," said Kristina Zahorik, Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association president and McHenry County Democratic chairwoman. "The American people are looking for tested leadership and Sen. Duckworth would be an awesome choice."

Duckworth's staff called any speculation premature and the senator echoed that sentiment last Monday at a press briefing.

A Biden campaign official said he "is familiar with the process of selecting a vice presidential candidate, having been on the opposite end of the process in 2008. Our campaign will run a vigorous vetting process, but no other details are available at this time."

Duckworth served as a pilot in the Illinois Army National Guard during the Iraq War and lost both legs when her helicopter was downed by enemy fire. She led the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and was assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Duckworth ran for Congress and won the 8th District seat in 2012, then was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.

"She will not be the first choice of a lot of people, but I can certainly see her stock rising as people begin to sort through the baggage and the trade-offs of those currently with the most buzz," said political scientist Kent Redfield, emeritus professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Those names includes Biden's former rivals California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Georgia state lawmaker Stacey Abrams.

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider was a freshman with Duckworth in Congress. He also was the first Illinois congressman to endorse Biden.

"I think the world of Tammy," the Deerfield Democrat said. "She'll be wonderful at whatever she does."

How would Duckworth rise to the top?

"She is a woman, she is a combat-disabled war veteran, she would be the first Asian American nominated for vice president, she is a U.S. senator, is the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office, has passion and guts -- a really solid moderate with a great story -- you don't get through what she has faced without there being a lot of 'there' there," Redfield said.

State Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake said Duckworth "appeals to a large bipartisan audience. The challenge for the nominee will be who best fits their candidacy."

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