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Walsh admits missteps before foreclosing on condo
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Joe Walsh, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress in the 8th District, acknowledges he should have told voters during the primary about the foreclosure of an Evanston condominium he once owned.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Republican congressional candidate Joe Walsh repeatedly said during an interview with Daily Herald reporters, editors and editorial board members that he is not a wealthy man and that he "overextended himself", which led to the foreclosure.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Republican congressional candidate Joe Walsh said foreclosure on a condo should not be a disqualifier for running for the 8th District.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/18/2010 12:00 AM

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Two weeks after his 2009 foreclosure became public, Republican congressional candidate Joe Walsh on Wednesday acknowledged he had "overextended" himself financially and should have disclosed the misstep during the primary campaign.

In his first interview on the subject, Walsh told reporters, editors and members of the Daily Herald editorial board that he "bit off more than I could chew" by renting a house in Winnetka while trying to sell the Evanston condominium that eventually fell into foreclosure.

Walsh - who now rents a different house in Winnetka at $3,300 a month - said he didn't talk about the foreclosure before the case was reported by the Daily Herald because he considered it a personal problem.

"I was not raised to talk about my own personal troubles," he said. "It was my ordeal. Maybe I miscalculated."

Walsh spoke about the foreclosure and other issues for more than an hour at the Daily Herald headquarters in Arlington Heights.

The candidate insisted he wasn't hiding from the foreclosure, which is a matter of public record, and said he had planned to discuss it during the general campaign for the 8th House District seat.

"In many ways, it fits with my message," said Walsh, who has billed himself as a conservative candidate, especially on fiscal matters. "Was I embarrassed about it? Not really."

Walsh defeated five other Republican candidates in February to win the nomination. He will face incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean of Barrington and Green Party challenger Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst in the November general election.

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.

Walsh has said he intended to sell or rent the condo, but had no luck. The foreclosure followed.

"I overextended myself. No doubt," Walsh said.

During Wednesday's interview, Walsh repeatedly maintained he isn't wealthy and estimated he made $30,000 to $40,000 last year in his private equity funding job. His wife doesn't work full time, he said, so they had his salary and some money borrowed from relatives to live on.

"My wife and I could not stay above water," he said.

Walsh plans to keep a campaign promise to relocate to a house in the 8th District by the end of April.

Last fall when he was exploring a bid for Congress, Walsh - a Barrington-area native - said he would move back to Barrington when he launched the campaign. On Wednesday, he said the reference to Barrington was figurative.

"The intention was always to move into the district as soon as we could," he said.

Because of the foreclosure and his family's finances, renting is his only option, Walsh said.

Being a renter doesn't preclude him from running for office, Walsh said, nor should the foreclosure.

"What's the criteria to run for Congress?" he said. "Foreclosing on a condominium - is that a disqualifier? My answer ... would be 'no.'"

Although Bean lives in Barrington, her home actually is in the 10th District, as is Walsh's house.

Walsh said he and his family remained in Winnetka after the foreclosure to be near his first wife, with whom he shares custody of their three children. The house he rents - now for sale with an asking price of $859,000, according to real-estate Web sites - is on the low end of properties in the upscale village, he said.

Throughout the interview, he insisted he is just a "regular Joe."

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

Overextended: Walsh says foreclosure shouldn't disqualify him from race