Incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean has represented Illinois’ 8th U.S. House District since 2005. She is facing off against Republican Joe Walsh for the second time, and she is expected to take the race without much difficulty once again. The 8th District is in the northwest of the state and includes parts of Lake, Cook and McHenry counties.
Candidate: Melissa Bean
Political background: Bean is the incumbent, serving her third two-year term. She serves on the House Financial Committee and Committee on Small Business.
According to her House website entry, Bean founded a consulting firm in 1995 which she ran until she was elected to Congress in 2005. Previously, she spent 20 years working in sales management at tech companies. Bean earned her bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University.
Key issues: Economic recovery and fiscal responsibility top the list of Bean’s priorities. Consumer protection is a also a lynchpin in her campaign.
Bean supported the Economic Recovery Act, bringing millions of dollars to the district to finance infrastructure projects, small-business loans and tax cuts.
She has promoted numerous measures aimed at increasing government’s fiscal responsibility. She introduced legislation designed to increase legislative transparency by changing the way congressional votes are recorded and she co-sponsored a bill to establish a bi-partisan commission tasked with investigating budget reform.
Bean’s consumer protection initiatives include credit card reforms, student loan simplification and an anti-bailout measure. She supported creation of the new consumer financial protection agency.
Endorsements: The Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and AFSCME are among the organizations that endorse Bean.
Chances of winning the seat: Bean won her last congressional contest with 60 percent of the vote and a win seems likely this time around as well. CQ Politics characterizes this race as safe Democratic, Real Clear Politics calls it Democratic leaning and Cook labels it likely Democratic.
Candidate: Joe Walsh
Political background: Walsh has no prior political experience. He ran for U.S. Congress in 1996 and for Illinois state representative in 1998, losing both times.
Professional background: Walsh works for the investment banking group Ravenswood Advisors. He has taught classes at a community college. Walsh earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and his master’s from University of Chicago.
Key issues: In Congress, Walsh says he intends to be a “loud, forceful voice against this expanding government which will stifle economic growth and bankrupt our children and grandchildren.” He has identified national defense, the economy and government spending as key issues in his campaign.
On national defense, Walsh is committed to fighting a war on terror, opposes the closing of the prison at Guantanamo and supports former Bush administration policy with respect to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He supports providing additional troops in Afghanistan requested by General McChrystal.
Walsh opposes government economic intervention like the stimulus bill and contends that cap and trade legislation and health care reform will lead to economic decline. He proposes lowering taxes to stimulate small-business growth to spur job development.
Walsh advocates minimizing government. He summarized his position on government spending on his website by saying “In Washington today, however, the government is trying to regulate, control, or tax every aspect of our lives. I want to go to Congress to put a huge “STOP” sign up in front of this runaway train of government spending.”
Endorsements: Illinois Federation for Right to Life, National Taxpayers United of Illinois and two local Tea party groups are among the organizations endorsing Walsh.
Chances of winning the seat: Although there has been no polling by major independent pollsters in this race, the prospects look dim for Walsh. He is trying to unseat an incumbent who won by substantial margins in two earlier races. He himself has been defeated in prior state and congressional political bids. Walsh did not have the support of his own party in running against Bean, according to a March Chicago Daily Herald report.
Clout Street noted in July that Bean was “easily outdistancing” Walsh on fundraising, with $1.17 million to his $100,000.
Several controversies have nipped at Walsh’s heels during the campaign, including his residency outside the district, bank foreclosure on his condo and alleged copyright infringement when he used a song by a rock musician of the same name on a campaign video posted to his website and YouTube.
Key Differences between Joe Walsh and Melissa Bean
To jumpstart the economy, Walsh opposes government economic stimulus while Bean supports it. The candidates agree that aiding small business will help turn the economy around.
Walsh wants to lock the brakes when it comes to government spending, as he wants to reduce government influence. Bean would tackle government spending by enacting spending reform legislation and making Congress more readily accountable to its constituents by increasing the transparency of their votes.
On national security, Walsh advocates continuing the war on terror and increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. Bean has supported President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, but emphasizes that Afghan troops must be trained to take the lead in providing security.
Bean has emphasized the importance of consumer protection from credit card reform to student loan simplification and protection against future industry bailouts with taxpayer funds. Walsh does not address consumer issues on his website.
Third-party candidate: Bill Scheurer is running on the Green party ticket. He likely will not have a serious impact in the race. He ran against Bean in a previous election and lost by a substantial margin.
Demographics: According to 2006 to 2008 U.S. Census survey data, Illinois’ 8th congressional district population of 653,647 has a median age of 34.2, with 32.1 percent holding a bachelor’s or higher degree. 73 percent of adults 25 and older were in the labor force during the survey period. The median family income of $71,398 surpassed the national average by more than $20,000. The district has only about one-third the number of families living below the poverty level as the nation as a whole.
84.4 percent of the population describes itself as white, 3.3 percent as black and 5.7 percent as Asian. 10.8 percent of the district’s residents of all races consider themselves Latino or Hispanic. 13.8 percent are foreign born, and 19.2 percent speak a language other than English at home.