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Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

Tammy Duckworth sits for photos and talks with constituents.

Voters attend debate to cheer on their candidate, not to change their minds

by Arcadia Kust
Oct 10, 2012


Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

Joe Walsh meets with constituents during one of the breaks.


Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

Husband and wife Scott Jamieson and Sylvia Maniatis text questions to the candidates during the debate.

Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

Listen to the candidate's opening statements from last night's debate.

In a heated debate Tuesday between incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Fox Lake) and challenger Tammy Duckworth, people attended to cheer on their candidates, not to have their minds changed.

“You are practicing our democracy, which is something that is precious in the world indeed," said Duckworth in her opening statement. "So thank you for coming out on both sides to listen to the candidates.”

But how much people were actually “listening” is open to argument. With more than 1,000 people in attendance, the candidates’ responses were frequently booed or cheered from both sides of the audience, sometimes drowning out the answers. The noise level of the crowd grew as the evening wore on, and some shouted, "Liar," "Let him speak," or "Let her speak."

After a particularly raucous moment, moderator Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, reminded everyone “this is a serious discussion,” and was met by audience laughter.

“I hold a grudge,” said Walsh supporter Dave Craven from Hanover Park before the debate. “I really don’t think there’s anything that could be said that would make me change my mind.”

Jeff Pignone, a South Elgin resident and Walsh supporter, came to the debate hoping to hear the candidates talk about their plans for the economy and the deficit, an issue that was discussed by both sides. However, Pignone was confident that he wouldn’t be switching candidates, and confirmed this at the end of the debate.

Sylvia Maniatis, a Duckworth supporter, and husband Scott Jamieson, a Walsh supporter, texted questions to the candidates about their positions on foreign aid and whether they supported an extension of Highway 53. Candidates answered questions submitted by text, emails or tweets in the third round of the debate.

Both Duckworth and Walsh said they were in favor of the extension.

“I think that Tammy did a better job articulating her points throughout the night,” said Maniatis. “I think she presented more specifics.”

Walsh supporters echoed similar sentiments, but at the end of the night some on both sides agreed there was no clear winner.

“It’s really just bickering at this point,” said Duckworth supporter and Arlington Heights resident Mike Hartel. “If you already had your mind made up, tonight wouldn’t change it.”

Susan Legenza, a South Elgin resident, came into the debate as an undecided voter, and left that way.

“I probably won’t make up my mind until right before the election,” said Legenza. “I’m not sure what will sway me in the end.”