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Candidates Push for Early Voting In Contested IL District

The Democratic congressional candidates in two suburban districts looked to progress their ground games Saturday, using rallies and other events to persuade supporters to vote early and to get their friends and neighbors to join them.

In Arlington Heights, Ill., about 100 people attended a rally with Tammy Duckworth and Brad Schneider, two Democrats trying to deduct incumbent Republican freshmen.

“We know that we have enthusiasm, and the wind at our back, and we know that we have to keep on working and keep on fighting,” said Duckworth, who is challenging Rep. Joe Walsh. “Today is voting day. Tomorrow is voting day. It’s time to get your voices out there.”

Schneider tinted the critical role Illinois plays in Democrats’ hope to recover the House. Democrats need a net pickup of 25 seats nationally to take control of the chamber, a vision that some veteran forecasters say emerges doubtful.

However, Schneider preserved that in his North Shore 10th Congressional District race against first-term Republican Rep. Robert Dold, electing the Democrat is about more than just winning one seat.

“We need to make sure we take back the House,” said Schneider, eliciting applause from the crowd. U.S. Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an Evanston lawmaker who is a member of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team, also attended and said Dold “has been on the wrong side for the people of the district.”

Even with the importance on early voting, only Schakowsky actually voted Saturday. She cast her ballot at Arlington Heights village hall, where early-voting lines meandered down two hallways.

Schneider said he planned to vote in the coming days and Duckworth said she will cast her ballot on Election Day, Nov. 6.

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There is little in the 8th district race that is of exclusive interest to those particular voters. The battle between Walsh (R-McHenry) and Duckworth instead has focused on major national issues such as Medicare and Social Security, with Chicago and national media attention often covering the money being funneled into the race or the latest histrionics of Walsh, including his outrageous comments last Thursday on abortion.

Redrawn after the 2010 census, the 8th district covers a swath of Cook, Lake and McHenry Counties. It features communities such as Barrington, which is the childhood home of Walsh and one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, and Hoffman Estates, the current home of Duckworth.

The race has gained nationwide attention, with Walsh’s highly-publicized comments criticizing Duckworth’s regular talk of her military service and his controversial comments about Muslims in America.

Both candidates have taken the campaign advancement of unabashedly calling out the decisions of each other.

Walsh gives few suggestions of the district he represents, instead speaking mostly about his resistance to government spending. Recent Walsh press releases on his web site include criticisms of Duckworth for her time at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and “clarification” of his pro-life position.

Walsh told reporters Thursday, Oct. 18 that there should be no abortion exception for the “life of the mother” because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would actually die, according to a radio station.

Duckworth took this to her advantage by campaigning with California congresswoman Rep. Jackie Speier Oct. 25 stating, “There’s a movement in Washington and Missouri and Indiana and even here at home in the 8th Congressional District to spread lies and myths about women’s health, whether it is Congressman Akin, whether it is Richard Mourdock, and my opponent Joe Walsh, who believed that if they distort the facts enough, they can take away all choices from women.”

“Who would ever believe that a female body would try to shut down a pregnancy in the case of rape,” Duckworth questioned. “Or in the case of Mr. Walsh, that an abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother?”

According to the Federal Election Commission, leading the money chase for the first half of October was Duckworth who received $487,927 for the 17-day period the report covers, vastly out-raising Walsh, a Tea Party-backed candidate, who reported getting almost $75,000.

Still, with money Walsh had combined previously, he had nearly $600,000 to enter the stretch drive toward the Nov. 6 election while Duckworth had slightly less than $300,000.

Duckworth, who has gained national Democratic backing in her second congressional bid, has now raised nearly $4.5 million for the 2011-12 election cycle. She had to spend some of that during a March primary campaign. Walsh has raised nearly $1.9 million during the cycle.

In addition to what the two candidates have spent, more than $3.5 million in outside money has flowed into the contest from national party coffers, labor unions and super political action committees, federal records show.

The conservative SuperPAC that had already plowed $2 million into Walsh’s race and had threatened to put in an additional $2.5 million to “bury” Duckworth, is now putting its money elsewhere.

On Friday, a Tribune/WGN poll showed Duckworth ahead by 10 points in the north and northwest suburban 8th District. Walsh’s campaign said that poll has been inconsistent with numbers it has seen all along.

A spokesman with the Now or Never SuperPAC told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that the group is investing its money in races elsewhere and doesn’t believe Walsh needs it.

“By all measures, we have been successful in IL-8. We have helped turn this race around and now believe Congressman Walsh is on a winning trajectory,” said Tyler Harber, Now or Never spokesman. “If we were less confident, you would see us continue investing in IL-8. We’re not running from a fight.”

With ten days to Election Day, Nov. 6, polls have shown Duckworth ahead by a 10 point lead; however, only time will tell who will be elected to 8th Congressional District’s office.

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