“We can’t take four more years of Donald Trump. And that’s why I’m running for President,” Walsh tweeted the morning of Aug. 25. “It won’t be easy, but bravery is never easy. But together, we can do it.”
In 2016, Walsh, known for inflammatory language, was a vocal backer of Trump’s first presidential bid. “On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” he tweeted shortly before the election.
Walsh subsequently turned into a persistent critic of the president and apologized for “the role I played in helping to put an unfit con man in the White House.”
Trump boasts high approval ratings from Republicans and has been raising money for his re-election bid since the moment he took office, making any primary challenge a long-shot. But Walsh sees it differently: the president is “ripe for a primary challenger,” Walsh wrote in a New York Times opinion piece earlier this month. Walsh is joined in the Republican primary by former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who himself announced a challenge to Trump in February but has earned little interest among prospective GOP voters.
Here’s more on Walsh’s political and financial history:
- During his 2010 congressional race, then-incumbent Rep. Melissa Bean, a Democrat, raised and spent roughly four times what Walsh did. But he won anyway — by fewer than 300 votes.
- In 2012, outside groups such as FreedomWorks for America collectively spent roughly eight times more — more than $5.2 million — to boost Walsh’s congressional campaign as they did to support his opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth. But she won.
- Walsh raised a little more than $2 million for his 2012 bid, with the biggest chunk of the money — about $860,000 — coming from Illinois donors.
- In 2011, Walsh’s ex-wife sued him, alleging he owed more than $117,000 in back child support payments, and said he had failed to pay what he owed even as he loaned money to his own campaign. The former couple later settled the dispute and issued a joint statement saying they “now agree that Joe is not and was not a ‘deadbeat dad’ and does not owe child support.”
- In 2014, Walsh was taken off the radio for using racist slurs on the air, something he said he did in an attempt to have an “honest discussion” about them. He has also been asked to account for past tweets when he said, among other things, that he believed former President Barack Obama is a Muslim (he is not) and accused Obama of “hatred toward Israel.”
- Walsh’s personal finances have been tumultuous in other ways, according to a 2011 Chicago Tribune investigation. The newspaper reported Walsh’s driver’s license had been suspended after he allowed his high-risk car insurance to lapse. It also said he had previously been subject to state and federal tax liens and lost a condo to foreclosure.
- Walsh’s most recent personal financial disclosure form, filed in 2013 at the end of his time in Congress, showed he owed between $50,000 and $100,000 in legal fees and $10,000 and $15,000 in student loan debt.
- After leaving office, Walsh launched the Grow and Be Free Super PAC, which he said would back conservative candidates and act as an alternative to Republican super PACs backing more establishment candidates. The group raised nearly $30,000 in 2013, including $5,000 from GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein, and then fizzled, officially shutting down in 2015.
- Walsh at one point worked for the libertarian Heartland Institute, which amplifies questions about scientific consensus on climate change, and has been prominently featured at Heartland Institute events since leaving Congress.
- When Politico asked Walsh if he could raise enough money for a primary challenge to Trump, Walsh’s response: “Abso-freaking-lutely.”
Sources: The Center for Responsive Politics, Federal Election Commission records, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, POLITICO and Salon.
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