Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) announced Wednesday he’ll seek re-election in the 14th district next year, setting up his state’s first official face-off between two GOP Members.
The outspoken freshman will face fellow freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren, who has already has indicated he will seek re-election in the 14th, which is the number of his current district. Walsh represents the suburban Chicago 8th district, portions of which were drawn into the new 14th.
“I've decided to run for re-election from the district in which I live and where I represent most of my current constituents,” Walsh wrote in an email to his supporters. “I will be running in what is the new 14th district which entails a good portion of Lake County, almost all of McHenry County, Kane County, Kendall County, and some of Will and DeKalb Counties. I live in McHenry and my current District office is in Northern Lake County. This area is home.”
Democrats drew an aggressive new Congressional map this cycle that moved several GOP Members into the same districts. Under the new lines, the homes of Walsh and Hultgren are in the new 14th district west of the Chicago exurbs. Meanwhile, the redrawn 8th district has no incumbent and was drawn to be a relatively safe Democratic seat.
Republicans are protesting the map in court and Walsh is the third GOP Member in the state to declare where he will run next year. Several Illinois Republicans are withholding their decision until the court case is resolved.
“I understand that there is another Republican Congressman drawn into this new district, Randy Hultgren, and it would be unfortunate if we had to run against each other,” Walsh wrote in his email. “And if they have to decide between two Republican Incumbents, so be it — in many ways Randy and I are both good conservatives who share many of the same values but there are also healthy differences between the two of us, we've both had a very different initial tenure in Washington, and the voters in the new district will decide which one of us will best be their voice in DC.”
In a statement Wednesday, Hultgren said he is "disappointed" Walsh would "abandon his own district to run against me in a primary."
"The residents of the 14th District are looking for responsible leadership for the long haul, and know that if we are to turn this country around, fix our economy, and put Americans back to work we won’t be able to do it through political grandstanding, sound bites, and name calling," Hultgren said, making a not-so-veiled reference to Walsh. "Winning the challenge before us takes commitment, experience, and a long term view."
But Walsh has some deep pockets backing his decision to run in the 14th. The Club for Growth has urged Walsh to run, essentially promising its support if he ran there instead of in the 8th district.
Walsh won his first term in Congress last year in a surprising upset, defeating then-Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) by fewer than 300 votes in a race that was ignored by the national parties.
But after he came to Congress, Walsh quickly became a darling of tea party conservatives. A frequent critic of the president on cable news shows, Walsh received more media attention than any other Member of the freshman class except for Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), according to a recent study.
However, Walsh has also had some highly publicized personal problems. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in July that Walsh continues to battle $100,000 in child-support back payments in court.