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Showdown Showcases Different GOP Facets

Opposite Styles of Walsh, Hultgren Will Be On Display in Illinois

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Illinois Rep. Randy Hultgren (above) said he doesn’t see how being an outspoken media personality benefits his constituents.

On the quiet fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, Rep. Randy Hultgren is in a rather uncomfortable situation with his neighbor, Rep. Joe Walsh.

The two freshman Republicans are likely to square off in a fierce Illinois primary in 2012 in a newly drawn Congressional district. And even though they hail from the same party, calling them polar opposites might be an understatement.

"I'm never going to be the national media guy," Hultgren told Roll Call. "That's not my desire. I don't think it really helps my district that much."

Walsh is the national media guy — and told Roll Call that he came to Congress to "literally scream from the mountaintop."

"That's why everybody knows who Joe Walsh is, because I have been doing that from day one," Walsh said in an interview from his office in 432 Cannon. It's just down the hall from Hultgren in 427, but the inside is a bit different.

Walsh's office doubles as a Washington apartment, and he sets up an air mattress to sleep each night amid piles of paperwork.

He's gotten a lot of attention for a freshman from a Democratic-leaning state, in part because of an ongoing legal dispute with his ex-wife, who says he owes $100,000 in child-support back payments.

He's also grabbed headlines as a frequent commenter on television and as a sharp critic of the president who embraces the tea party label.

The soft-spoken Hultgren blends in with his colleagues and has a more mainstream legislating style.

Working Styles

To achieve his Congressional priorities — improving Illinois infrastructure, maintaining scientific research funding and looking out for farmers' needs — Hultgren says he doesn't "care who gets the credit, let's just get it done."

Walsh, on the other hand, aims to host more town hall meetings than any other Member.

Data on town halls kept by CQ Roll Call's Knowlegis found that Walsh is the leader among the Illinois delegation and ranked 17th in Congress, with about 24 town halls as of last week. Hultgren has had eight, according to the Knowlegis approximate count.

Walsh said it doesn't matter to him necessarily what committees he is on, as long as he can work toward his goal of reducing federal spending and reducing the size of government. Those issues prompted Walsh to run for office under a tea party banner in 2010.

Hultgren, who also counts reducing spending a goal, turns to his three committee posts to address parochial needs.

Hultgren is seeking an issue to define his service, saying he believes the most effective Members have areas of specialty, and, "I really do want to have some expertise that people can look to me for really making a difference on an issue."

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