U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a right-wing Republican facing a strong challenge from progressive Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional district, once claimed to be progressive on gay and other issues.
When he ran against staunch progressive Rep. Sidney Yates in the 9th Congressional District in 1996, Walsh claimed to be supportive of gay rights. Yates scored 89 percent on the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC's) Congressional ratings.
Reporters Trudy Ring and Shamara Riley covered the race for Outlines newspaper, a gay paper that later purchased and merged with Windy City Times newspaper. They wrote:
"Walsh also has indicated he would support gay rights, but Yates has taken a leading role on the issue for many years. ... Walsh, endorsed by Log Cabin, said he would support ENDA and other federal gay-rights legislation, and would be willing to co-sponsor it. Like Yates, he opposes restrictions on gays in the military.
"He supports maintaining current federal funding for AIDS-related programs and would favor an increase 'depending on how much money there is to go around for other diseases'; believes the federal government should 'lead an education offensive' to fight AIDS; favors reforming Medicaid but supports maintaining mandatory coverage for people with HIV/AIDS. He is undecided on same-sex marriage. He supports abortion rights in the first trimester; opposes federal funding of abortions; and supports increasing federal funds for research on breast cancer. He is undecided about federal affirmative action programs ... ."
That same year, Windy City Times also covered the race. He told WCT, "If there's a more gay-friendly Republican around, I'd like to meet them." He said he favored domestic-partner benefits and would take a leadership role pushing for gay rights.
Walsh lost that race but later won election to Congress in the suburbs. He has a zero rating from HRC in the last Congress. He voted against ENDA and other gay issues.
Tracy Baim is co-founder and publisher of Windy City Times, and she was co-founder of publisher of Outlines newspaper.