UPDATED: 11/7/2012 6:40 a.m.
(CBS) –Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth has ousted Tea Party-backed Congressman Joe Walsh from the 8th Congressional District in an intensely watched contest marked by vigorous attacks from both sides.
The hotly contested race for the newly drawn 8th Congressional District seat had drawn the most attention in Illinois. It pitted incumbent Walsh, 50, a Republican from McHenry whose conservative comments have drawn controversy, against Democrat Duckworth, a 44-year-old wounded Iraq War pilot from Hoffman Estates who has served in state and federal veterans departments.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Duckworth had 55 percent of the vote to Walsh’s 45 percent — or 120,774 to 99,922 respectively.
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“It’s down to business,” Duckworth told CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman on Wednesday morning. “We are going to get to work on making sure we have a seamless transition.
“What’s important are the people here … everything from jobs to investing in small business.”
There was no love lost between the two. Duckworth’s campaign had attacked Walsh as a “deadbeat dad” — a reference to a dispute the congressman had with his ex-wife over child support. Walsh, meanwhile, had chided Duckworth for emphasizing her military background — she lost both legs in a rocket attack on her helicopter — and his campaign tried to link her with the corrupt administration of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat now serving time in federal prison.
On Tuesday night, as she celebrated her victory, Duckworth said all the negativity was behind. In fact, she said, she received a “gracious” phone call from Walsh conceding the race and promising to help with her transition.
“This is not about me. It’s about our nation, it’s about the district, it’s about the people I serve,” Duckworth told reporters. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I will serve 100 percent of the people of this district.”
“She had powerful people running her campaign,” Walsh told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley. “The Chicago media couldn’t stand me, so those were obstacles I had to get over. We made it close, we made it interesting, and it was a spirited debate. But at the end of the day we came up short.”
Walsh’s most recent controversy involved the divisive issue of abortion. He came under fire for saying abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother, given medical advances. Duckworth fired back by saying Walsh was so extreme he “would let a woman die,” rather than allow a medically necessary abortion.
Walsh appeared to roll back his no-exceptions stance the following day, citing ectopic pregnancies, and saying, “I do, of course, support medical procedures for women during their pregnancies that might result in the loss of an unborn child.”
The Walsh-Duckworth race was also seen as important to Democrats who were trying to at least lessen their minority in the U.S. House.
Duckworth last ran for office in 2006, when she unsuccessfully tried to unseat Republican Peter Roskam.