Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Duckworth Won't Pull "Deadbeat Dad" Ads

Incumbent calls ad campaign "graceless" and a privacy intrusion

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The battle over Illinois' 8th Congressional District has gotten personal. Republican candidate Joe Walsh has called out Democratic rival Tammy Duckworth for her "deadbeat dad" ad campaign, which refers to Walsh's child support dispute with his ex-wife. Mary Ann Ahern reports.

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Walsh, Son Ask Duckworth to Ditch "Deadbeat" Ads

Rep. Joe Walsh says Tammy Duckworth's ads claiming he's a deadbeat dad are an unfair attack on a personal matter that's already been resolved.
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Democratic candidate for Congress Tammy Duckworth says she has no intention of pulling ads that paint her opponent, Rep. Joe Walsh, as a deadbeat dad who can't manage his finances.

"I think it's very typical of a bully to cry foul after he's insulted everyone else. He's called the president a tyrant and idiotic," Duckworth said Tuesday in a telephone conversation with NBC Chicago.

The TV ads and a campaign mailer resurface published reports from earlier this year about a Walsh's past child support battle with his ex-wife. One mailer says, "Deadbeat Joe, it's time to go."

After he won office in 2010, Walsh's ex-wife sued for roughly $117,000 in unpaid child support. Walsh says the matter was cleared up privately.

"If my ex-wife, the mother of my children, said publicly, 'Joe Walsh was a good father,' and my three adult kids publicly say, 'Joe Walsh is a good father,' I just don't understand why Tammy Duckworth wouldn't say that."

But Duckworth's campaign said the whole reason Walsh's ex-wife sued him was because he loaned his campaign $30,000 and took a trip to Mexico while owing more than $117,000 in child support. She argues that it was clear Walsh put his campaign before his family.

At an afternoon press conference, Walsh asked Duckworth to withdraw the ads, calling them "graceless" and a privacy intrusion. His 25-year-old son, also named Joe Walsh, read a statement he wrote with his two other siblings, who could not be present, praising his father.

"It's not that we want to jump up and be in front of cameras here. He certainly hasn't wanted us to. But at this point it's so far over the line as far as negative ads go ... I feel like I had no choice in this matter," the son said.

The elder Walsh said Duckworth launched the campaign to distract voters from the real issues.

"Most voters this year, as we've all talked about, are concerned about, 'What are you going to do about unemployment, the economy [and] our debt. I don't want to hear about Joe Walsh's personal financial issues,'" he said.

The race between Walsh and Duckworth in the newly redrawn, Democrat-friendly 8th Congressional District is one of the most closely watched of the election cycle. Democrats believe it's a pickup in their fight for control of the U.S. House.

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