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What's next for Walsh? GOP unsure how foreclosure will play
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Joe Walsh

 

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Published: 3/4/2010 12:01 AM

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Will this week's revelation that Republican congressional candidate Joe Walsh lost a condominium to foreclosure affect his political chances in November?

That depends on how voters view Walsh's financial struggles, which came to light only after a Daily Herald expose, a prominent Lake County Republican said Wednesday.

"If it's perceived that he was hiding something just to get elected, that could hurt him," said Dan Venturi, whose tenure as county GOP chairman ended Wednesday. "But I think if (he's) perceived as somebody who's embarrassed to talk about his hardships, then I think people can relate to that."

Walsh, of Winnetka, did not disclose the foreclosure during his successful campaign for the GOP nomination in the 8th House District. He defeated five other Republican candidates to win the nomination.

Walsh now will face incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean of Barrington and Green Party challenger Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst in the general election.

Walsh refused to answer questions from the Daily Herald on Wednesday. He e-mailed the newspaper a three-paragraph statement Tuesday and distributed a long essay to supporters and media Wednesday about the issue.

In it, he talked about the financial problems that led to the foreclosure.

"I accepted responsibility for the situation and worked with my bank to foreclose on the condo," Walsh wrote. "It was my problem and I didn't ask anyone to bail me out."

The statement also attacked the Daily Herald and the media for being "part of a dysfunctional political establishment that has destroyed our economy in pursuit of reshaping America into a country working people don't even recognize and cannot afford."

"If enduring the ridicule of a few media types is the price I have to pay to demonstrate that a regular guy can stand up to the political establishment on behalf of middle-class, working families, so be it," Walsh continued in the statement.

The essay also appears on Walsh's Web site.

Walsh, whose full name is William Joseph Walsh, lived in Evanston when he ran for the 9th District congressional seat in 1996 and for the state House in 1998.

Walsh owned an Evanston condominium from 2004 to 2009. The two-bedroom unit went into foreclosure in 2008 and Walsh was evicted in October 2009, Cook County circuit court records and real-estate reports indicate.

The condominium was not his primary residence at the time of the foreclosure. Walsh and his wife, Helene, and their family moved to a rented house in Winnetka in 2006 and to another rented house in Winnetka in 2009.

In his original statement to the Daily Herald, Walsh said he intended to sell the condo or rent it out but had no luck. The foreclosure followed.

The GOP's Venturi said a foreclosure would have been more damaging to a political candidate two years ago when the economy was better. But now, with foreclosures and stories of financial woe so common, voters may identify with Walsh's financial problem, Venturi said.

"It probably will resonate with a lot of people," he said.

Conversely, voters could view defaulting on a mortgage as "financial mismanagement on his part," Venturi said.

He called the revelation newsworthy, despite Walsh's insistence in the Wednesday statement that "the local media (is doing) Melissa Bean's dirty work for her."

"It's something that needs to be addressed," Venturi said. "And if it's something (Walsh) addresses, it could be a positive for him."

Two of Walsh's opponents in the GOP primary - Long Grove Village President Maria Rodriguez and Barrington resident Chris Geissler - said they knew nothing about the foreclosure during the winter campaign.

"I do believe ... this kind of information should be divulged by the individual candidate," Geissler said. "Anyone seeking public office needs to take a hard look at their personal history as well as motivations and be able to reconcile that with the public trust they seek."

Even so, Geissler and Rodriguez said they'll continue supporting Walsh's bid to unseat Bean.

"Regardless of my differences with my primary opponents, I disagree with Melissa Bean 100 percent of the time," Rodriguez said.

The other GOP candidates - Dirk Beveridge, John Dawson and Greg Jacobs - could not be reached for comment.

The foreclosure isn't the only financial issue that's dogged Walsh. He was sued by a former campaign manager who said the candidate owed him $20,000 for services.

The case is pending in Cook County court.

The 8th District includes parts of Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.