Friday, July 8, 2011

Duckworth is willing to get into an electoral “brawl” for seat in Congress

It seems we’re going to get an Asian ethnic political fight for a seat in the Illinois congressional delegation.

Tammy Duckworth, the failed congressional candidate from 2006 who has since served positions with the Illinois and U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs, said this week she WILL run in the 2012 election cycle for a congressional seat that currently has no incumbent.

IT IS ONE of the perks for Democrat Duckworth that the Democrats wound up gaining complete control of the redistricting process. They created a district that includes her home, but no other current members of Congress.

Some political observers believe the intent was to make Duckworth a representative without having to engage in any serious challenge. Except ….

For the fact that someone else who’d like to hold an elective office also happens to live in the district, and actually made it clear early on that he also will run for the congressional post.

We’re talking about Raja Krishnamoorthi, a former staffer in the state Treasurer’s office who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the Democratic nomination for Illinois comptroller and also tried getting the lieutenant governor nomination once Scott Lee Cohen was forced to back out.

IT WOULD BE easy to dismiss Krishnamoorthi as a long-shot , EXCEPT that he has already started up some fundraising. He has money in a campaign kitty ($400,000 raised in just over five weeks), and also seems to have the energy to make him determined enough to take on this campaign – regardless of the opposition.

In fact, a part of me was surprised to learn of Duckworth’s announcement this week that she was getting into the race. A part of me was starting to think (in large part because of the way she has turned down other electoral possibilities in recent years) that she would NOT want to have to take on a serious challenge, and would want a campaign where she could run as unopposed as possible (ie., a token GOP challenge come the General Election in November of next year).
KRISHNAMOORTHI: The challenger

Which shows how “off” my judgment can be, because she seems willing to take on this campaign – which is in a district about as sympathetic as can be drawn.

No incumbent. A lot of territory in the portion of the Chicago suburbs that is not inclined to want to be separate from Democratic Chicago. And even something resembling an Asian voter enclave (12 percent of the congressional district’s population falls into that overly-broad ethnic classification) that would like to have “one of our own” in political office – which also would be a first for the Illinois congressional delegation.

FOR THE RECORD, Krishnamoorthi was born in New Dehli, India, while Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, of parents who were ethnic Chinese. Both, however, have lived the bulk of their lives in the United States (Krishnamoorthi’s family came to this country when he was 3 months old), and are about as “all-American” as one can be.

Krishnamoorthi has a resume (Princeton and Harvard educated, a clerk for U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall, an attorney with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis) that resembles that of any serious candidate for political office – for those who want to think he’s purely an ethnic guy who lacks qualifications.

While Duckworth is likely to trot out the same personal story (the Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs and injured her right arm during combat in Iraq) that nearly worked in 2006 when she took on Republican Peter Roskam; who likely will continue to serve in Congress, since he is now in a different district than Duckworth.

She was even among the people who got some national attention in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention. She got to speak publicly as part of the festivities that made Barack Obama the presidential nominee.

NOT THAT DUCKWORTH can claim exclusive ties to Obama. For Krishnamoorthi was an advisor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and also was a policy director and advisor back when Obama ran for a U.S. Senate seat back in 2004.

This will be the campaign that will infuriate the conservative ideologues and the way they want to perceive the world – a place where both candidates WANT the support of Obama – who probably will engage in a series of contortions meant to avoid the appearance of taking sides.

In that regard, he should follow the lead of now-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who back in 2008 was the member of Congress who went out of his way to avoid having a presidential favorite – because both Obama and primary opponent Hillary R. Clinton thought THEY were entitled to his support (which went to Obama AFTER the primary season finally ended and Barack had won).

All of which makes this a campaign that could be Illinois’ most interesting next year, and for reasons that go beyond the fact that Illinois could get its first Asian member of Congress.


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