8th Congressional District Debate on WFLD: Walsh vs. Duckworth - FOX 32 News Chicago

8th Congressional District Debate on WFLD: Walsh vs. Duckworth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Joe Walsh, Republican U.S. Representative for Illinois' northwest suburban 8th congressional district, is known for his advocacy for a wide range of public policy issues and sharp criticism of the Obama administration.

Nearly 100,000 people have watched the home made video Congressman Walsh posted on YouTube last year, just before he defied the President and leaders of his own party by voting against any increase in the national debt limit. It's part of why he's a hero to the Tea Party and other conservatives across the country. Those who despise him are rallying around his Democratic challenger.

His opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, is the former Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran, who oversaw VA's effort to end Veteran homelessness and lead initiatives for female Vets.

Tammy Duckworth brought delegates to their feet at last week's Democratic National Convention, when she recounted the day an Iraqi insurgent's rocket propelled grenade brought down the National Guard helicopter she piloted.

Fox Chicago News presented the first live face-to-face debate of the fall campaign between Representative Joe Walsh and challenger Tammy Duckworth. It's the most closely watched contest in Illinois, a state that both parties say could be key to control of Congress next year.


Immigration is not only affecting those near the border, the issue is growing one in the newly redrawn borders of the 8th district.

Within those borders, there's disagreement about the state of Illinois' version of the "Dream Act." The law allows undocumented teens and young adults to apply to defer deportations and for work permits.

"Laws which a lot of our politicians think are compassionate, they think in their minds they're helping the people, but what they're doing, they're rolling on our national security and also discriminating against American citizens," says Rick Biesada, Director of the Chicago Minutemen Project.

An advocate for immigrant's rights sees it much differently.

"These kids can be solutions, they know, a lot of them are bilingual," says Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights CEO Lawrence Benito. "They understand America first in terms of American culture, but they speak another language. And this is helpful in moving our country forward to become competitive."

Tammy Duckworth shared her thoughts on immigration in the FOX Chicago debate, saying, "we need to  make sure that we work with one another, that we have comprehensive sensible immigration reform that involves protecting our borders. Actually, my old Blackhawk unit used to do that mission on the border. We also need to make sure that whatever we do it is sensible and practical that it is fair. So that if you did come into this country illegally, that you go to the end of the line, that you pay fines, that you cant be convicted of a felony. And we also need to be humane."

Congressman Joe Walsh drew criticism at a town meeting when he said radical Islamics are trying to kill Americans every week and it's a threat to Chicago's suburbs.

"From what we're seeing in the Middle East right now, we could have big problems over here," Benito says. "I'm sure a lot of those very same people are and they probably came here not only across the border from Mexico, but from Canada."

"After his comments about Muslims, a couple of weeks ago, there were attacks mosques, shootings at mosques, mosques targeted, graves desecrated," Biesada responds. "He needs to take responsibility that his words can have consequences."

"Our government knows there is a threat here," Walsh said in a debate on FOX Chicago News. "Our number one job is to protect American citizens. Eric Holder says he's got 126 cases of Al-Qaeda working with Muslim American citizens to plot mass killings in this country. Our government needs to protect us against this."

In response to the Dream Act, Walsh believes that those people should not have been put to the front of the line. "We need to secure our borders," Walsh continued. "We have millions of people trying to get into this country legally every single year. So, no, even though it's a difficult case, the children of illegal immigrants here should not be granted amnesty." 


The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, is the most sweeping health care law since Medicare and has been one of the most polarizing issues in America.

Congressman Joe Walsh vows to repeal ObamaCare while his challenger, Tammy Duckworth, touts it as a major victory.

Though, the two couldn't be farther apart on this issue, you might be surprised, they actually agree on one thing: they're both concerned that the Affordable Care Act will hurt small businesses.

Chicago Prime Steakhouse in Schaumburg is one of them.

"The Affordable Care Act is simply not affordable for my business" explains restaurant co-owner Andy Kalkounos.

He says, even now, he can't afford health insurance for any of his 50 employees and he won't be able to afford what the law requires. Under the law, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees must start providing health insurance for all workers by 2014 or face stiff financial penalties.

"I will tell you this is going to be something that is devastating for me," Kalkounos continues. "I can't speak to everyone else. I'm not a small business representative. I represent Chicago Prime Steakhouse, and I can tell you this is a huge burden for my father and I, my family and my staff."

It's forcing Kalkounos to re-think plans of expanding his business and stay under 50 employees.

When the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 Health Care Reform Law as constitutional in June,

Duckworth lauded it as a victory for children with pre-existing conditions, young adults who will be covered under their parents until age 26, many women who now have access to free birth control, and seniors who can't be charged higher for their age or health.

"We need to roll up our sleeves and fix the problems...make sure the kids with pre-existing conditions are covered, women can't be charged more because they are women, seniors can't have their insurance dropped, that parents can keep kids on their insurance until they're 26, and that people like my brother who are hanging on until 2014 so their pre-existing conditions are covered, will be covered," Duckworth says.

The Republican representative argues it's bad for seniors and Medicare and calls ObamaCare a "massive tax plan" that will not only "devastate businesses in this country," kill jobs, and bankrupt the nation, but will also "get rid of physicians as we know them."

"There's only one law on the books right now that impacts every 60, 70, and 80-year old person watching this debate. And that's ObamaCare," Walsh said in the FOX Chicago debate. "Let people shop across state lines for health care, tort reform; expand health savings accounts putting more Americans in charge of their own health care. We did not need to reinvent one fifth of our economy to go after pre-existing conditions. "

Dr. Hesham Hassaballa says Walsh's statement isn't far from the truth.

"I am certain that the uncertainty of the future of healthcare will push some doctors to go out of healthcare," says Dr. Hassaballa, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care.

Dr. Hassaballa loves his job, but admits he worries whether the Health Care Law will burden physicians with more regulations and restrictions and wonders how this new standardization of healthcare will affect the quality of patient care.

Dr. Hassaballa belives that, "if you have a system that just makes a worker, you have an office worker, and a hospital worker and they're not invested, that would be detrimental to everybody."


When you talk about the state of education in Illinois, that discussion has to include the Chicago teachers' strike.

Less than a week after school started in Chicago, it stopped again, sending CPS students on a recess they weren't hoping for. Nearly 29,000 people have been out on the picket line with 350,000 students hanging in limbo. Chicago teachers spent more time on the picket line this week then in front of their students.

"We don't do it for the money," says CPS teacher George Cohlmia. "We don't do it for anything else but the love of teaching."

"This is really an important situation and I understand that Rahm Emanuel doesn't understand," says Darlene Hall, a CTU Counselor. "Because if you don't get in the trenches of the schools, you don't know what the needs are."

29,000 CTU members wore red as a show of solidarity as they marched in front of cps headquarters demanding a fair contract.

Here's what's at stake and why the nation is watching so closely:

CPS is offering a guaranteed raise and reforms in school and teacher evaluation, based on standardized tests scores and whether principals can hire new teachers.

Tammy Duckworth on measuring student performance: "I agree we need to have more oversight of teacher performance but you need to understand we can't demonize one another, we can't say the administrators are bad or the teachers are bad because both sides have to come together. I think we have to have some measure of student performance through testing but we also need to make sure our teachers are not teaching testing because that's will happen."

JCTU says that's not fair because they want job guarantees for the entire work force. Some principals say they support the teachers but they want the power to pick.

"I recognize that this is an individual's career but one must also recognize the importance of doing your craft well and you must also recognize the importance of having a quality educator in front of the classroom and I call or charge an individual to think especially those at the negotiating table who would you want to chose the individual in front of your child," says school principal Joenile Albert-Reese.

The strike was announced Sunday night at 10 o'clock, leaving CPS parents scrambling to figure out childcare.

For the first time, high school teachers in Lake Forest went on strike this week. On average, teachers on that north shore community make a $100,000 a year.

Disparity in how much teachers make and how much is spent on each student in the classroom has long been an issue in Illinois.

The funding formula, some say, just doesn't add up when $17,000 a year is spent on students in the north suburbs, compared to $10,000 on students in Chicago.

Rep. Joe Walsh supports voucherizing education. He believes that the quickest, fastest, and most effective way to improve our public schools is to compete.

"I believe the parent should have that option, that choice. We're paying $10,000-$15,000 a year in the Chicago public high schools right now per student. Give the parents that money to go to a public, private, religious, or home school. That competition will force public schools to improve and the group standing in the way of letting kids be free are the unions," Walsh says.

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