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Friday night live: Walsh, Duckworth square off in Fox Chicago, made-for-TV debate

Republican candidate Joe Walsh (right) answers questiduring an 8th congressional debate with Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth September .File Pho| Steven

Republican candidate Joe Walsh (right) answers a question during an 8th congressional debate with Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth in September .File Photo | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:27AM

There were fireworks in West Dundee Friday night for the town’s Heritage Fest which were a bit more explosive than the hour-long made-for-TV debate held outside of prime time for incumbent GOP 8th District Congressman and Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh and his Democratic challenger and former Obama administration member Tammy Duckworth.

Which is to say, the candidates reiterated points they have been making elsewhere recently in a format that covered so many topics it was difficult for either to go into any depth about anything, much less enter into any lengthy or heated exchange during their lively discussion.

The hour-long session was hosted by Fox Chicago political editor Mike Flannery and “Good Day Chicago” anchor Anna Davlantes in the station’s news studio. Fox Chicago Anchor Kori Chambers fielded questions submitted on WFLD’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and the program, which aired lived at 9:30 p.m. also held prepared segments on topics such as immigration, healthcare, and education, particularly the teacher’s strike in Chicago.

The immigration discussion led to Walsh’s August comments about “a radical stream of Islam” in the U.S. he claims threatens the lives of Americans — including residents of Addison, Elgin and Elk Grove — at a townhall meeting in Elk Grove.

Walsh reiterated his position that there is a radical stream of Islam that has been and will continue to be a threat - and that Attorney General Eric Holder has noted 126 cases being investigated.

“We can’t let political correctness kill Americans,” Walsh said.

Duckworth said that “reckless words can lead to reckless actions” and that if Walsh knows of plots in the three mentioned towns, he should be working with their police departments.

Of the recent troubles in the Middle East, with embassies under siege and diplomats murdered, Walsh once again chastised the Obama administration for “almost apologizing for the film (a YouTube video mocking Muslims) and free speech. We live in a free country.”

Duckworth said that cooler heads need to prevail and agreed with efforts to go after such terrorists.

Per the Dream Act and President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing children of illegal immigrants to stay here under certain conditions, Walsh called the move unconstitutional and that such youths should not be allowed to go to the front of the line of those wanting to become Americans.

Duckworth said that such children should have to give back through service to the United States, become educated and have no felonies to become citizens. She favors a “very, very, tough path” to naturalization for the undocumented already here as tracking down and jailing an estimated 13 million people would be impractical.

Concerning healthcare, Walsh said he would work to repeal the entirety of Obamacare and replace it with some sort of “patient centered care” which would, among other things, allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines.

Duckworth said she would work to change parts of the Affordable Healthcare Act particularly that applies to businesses of 50 or so having to provide health insurance for their workers.

“We have to keep guaranteed benefits,” she said.

Of the Chicago Public Schools teacher’s strike, Duckworth said neither side was 100 percent right and was glad to hear that a tentative agreement may have been reached.

While agreeing there needs some sort of measurement of student progress, Duckworth is not keen on charter schools which she likened to a lottery system, leaving the losers behind.

Walsh said charters and voucher systems encourage competition, which he claimed improves the entire school system.

Walsh found it odd that Duckworth was torn between the teachers union and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel - camps which both support her campaign - because “this is all about the kids.” At the same time, he said the strike really is because “teachers don’t want to be evaluated.”

On abortion, Walsh restated that he is pro-life without exception, while Duckworth said she “trusts women to make decisions about their own bodies,” and favors public funding in some cases.

On if people are better off now than they were four years ago, Duckworth felt they are, to a small degree, “but there is a lot more work to do.” She chastised Walsh for being the lone Illinois “no” vote for a transportation bill that would create jobs in the 8th district. At the same time, she felt there does need to be less regulation for small businesses, tax credits for hiring unemployed people, and even a higher bar for increasing income tax than the $200,000 family income targeted by the Obama administration.

Walsh said, “Washington doesn’t create jobs,” and he challenged Duckworth to tour the district - which covers parts of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties - with him.

“That would be a riot,” he said.

With Illinois dubiously leading the nation with one in 300 houses in some stage of foreclosure, Duckworth said more should be done to help those underwater refinance and to assist community banks, while Walsh said “the best housing program is jobs.”

Walsh kidded Duckworth for how many times she said “let’s get to work.” Her mantra for the evening also included words such as cooperate, compromise, and the phrase “don’t demonize.”

Walsh concluded his comments for the evening by noting the nation needs to do some growing up, that politicians should stop making promises they can’t keep, that bills have to be paid, and “we can’t keep living in denial.”

Duckworth said she would roll up her sleeves to collaborate in a bipartisan manner.

“It’s about serving the nation. There’s hard work to do. Let’s get to it,” she said.

Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs who lost her legs in 2004 in Iraq after the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by an RPG. Her heavy-hitting backers include President Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff and campaign manager David Axelrod and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Duckworth lost a bid for Congress in 2010. She was born in Thailand to a father in the U.S. military and mother of Chinese heritage.

Walsh was born and raised in Barrington and lives in McHenry, which is out of his district, the boundaries of which were redrawn by the Democratic-controlled Illinois state legislature after the 2010 census. His involvement with rise of the Tea Party movement brought him to national attention.

Walsh and Duckworth debated in May on CLTV, and two more debates are scheduled. The next is set for 7 p.m., Oct. 9 on WCPT - AM & FM and AM 560 WIND, will be held at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, and is open to 8th district residents. The final session will be held Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. on television on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.”

For those wishing to watch Friday’s outing, Fox Chicago has video and transcripts posted on its website, and will rebroadcast the debate Sunday at 8 a.m.

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