CHICAGO – Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in combat two years ago, narrowly won the Democratic congressional primary nomination for the suburban Chicago district held by retiring GOP Rep. Henry Hyde.
The 37-year-old, Thailand-born Duckworth, who has spent her recent years in Iraq and then in recovery at a military hospital in Washington, D.C., was heavily recruited by Democrats eager to give the national party more credibility on security issues.
She captured major newspaper endorsements, more than $650,000 in contributions since announcing her candidacy in December and had the backing of Illinois' Democratic senators, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Chicagoan who heads the House Democrats' fundraising efforts.
Even Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., helped generate money for the Army Reserves major.
With 520 of 526 precincts counted in unofficial returns, Duckworth had 43.8 percent of the votes for the nomination in the 6th Congressional District. The Democrats' 2004 nominee, businesswoman Christine Cegelis, had 40.4 percent, and Lindy Scott, a Wheaton College professor, had 15.7 percent.
Her public address early Wednesday sounded like a victory speech, including an attack on the unopposed Republican nominee, state Sen. Peter Roskam, and her gratitude to her supporters.
"To my buddies who pulled me out of that field in Iraq, to the medical professionals who saved my life and taught me to walk again, to the many volunteers who worked so hard throughout this campaign," she said. "I especially would like to thank my husband ... He's been there with me every step of the way."
About an hour earlier, Cegelis had told her volunteers that it was going to be "a long night," said her spokesman Andy Juniewicz, who saw the race as too close to call.
In another suburban Chicago race, conservative businessman David McSweeney won the GOP's 8th Congressional District primary as the party put forward its candidate to oppose one of their top national targets for the fall -- freshman Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean.
In a field of a half-dozen candidates, McSweeney, from Barrington Hills, defeated Kathy Salvi, a Mundelein attorney and wife of two-time statewide candidate Al Salvi, and state Rep. Robert Churchill of Lake Villa, a former Illinois House majority leader.
McSweeney, who raised more than $2 million, said in declaring victory: "I look forward to unifying the party and victory in November."
Salvi said she will help the party retake the seat legendary conservative Rep. Phil Crane lost in 2004 after 35 years in the House.
"I am humbled and proud to have run as a candidate for the 8th congressional seat," she said. "And I pledge to endorse and support our nominee, David McSweeney, in every way that I can to ensure victory in November of 2006."
Bean, who beat Crane on her second effort, is among the Republicans' prime targets nationwide as they aim to hold their House majority and keep Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., as speaker. Bean was unopposed on the Democratic ballot.
Rep. Daniel Lipinski was the only incumbent within Illinois' delegation expected to face a significant primary battle and he won. He will face Republican Ray Wardingley, a former clown.