Tammy Duckworth submits resignation from VA. Exclusive. House run next?

SHARE Tammy Duckworth submits resignation from VA. Exclusive. House run next?

WASHINGTON–Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth submitted her resignation, the VA confirmed for me on Monday. One of her options will be to return to the Chicago suburbs to run for a House seat from the new 8th Congressional District and I bet she does.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the Chicago Sun-Times in a statement, “Assistant Secretary Duckworth has submitted her resignation. She has served the Department of Veterans Affairs with distinction. Her unwavering dedication to Veterans and their families has strengthened VA’s ability to perform our mission–providing Veterans the healthcare and benefits they have earned.

“Tammy Duckworth uniquely understands the needs of today’s Veterans and their families, and her commitment to serving Veterans and increasing VA’s outreach has helped the department serve more Veterans and serve them well. We will miss her advocacy and leadership, but wish her the very best in the years to come.”

In 2006, Duckworth, 43, ran for the House in the present Illinois 6th Congressional District, beat by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) in a close race.

If Duckworth ran for the House again, she would have a much stronger resume than the first time around–since then, she ran the Illinois veterans agency and is one of the top VA officials in Washington– and would be running from a more Democratic district.

Her Hoffman Estates home is in the proposed new 8th Congressional District, anchored in the northwest suburbs–and designed by Illinois Democrats in the remap they drew to have a Democratic tilt.

The new 8th contains large tracts of territory from the present 6th district where Duckworth beat Roskam in 2006 and other turf that could yield Democrat votes.

When Duckworth ran in 2006, her candidacy was encouraged and supported by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and then Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), now Chicago’s mayor, who at the time was running the House political operation.

I bet that if Duckworth runs again–she would quickly be able to recreate the local and national financial base that helped her raise some $4.5 million in 2006 and secure the backing again of Emily’s List.

Her association with Obama opens doors to his fund-raising network and would also be a boost in a year he is running for re-election, where turnout will be high in his adopted home state.

Duckworth lost both legs and shattered an arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in November, 2004. She met Durbin while she was recovering in Washington at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and he helped launch her 2006 House bid.

After she was defeated, she became chief of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, serving while maintaining her membership in the Illinois National Guard, where she is a major.

Duckworth was tapped by Obama in February, 2009 to be one of the top spots in the VA– Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last month, Obama also named Duckworth to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center.

In that job, she has maintained a high national profile while remaining connected to Illinois. She has several official speaking engagements on her calendar in Illinois for later this month.

Duckworth was born in Thailand and grew up in Hawaii, earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii; her masters is from George Washington University in D.C.; she did work on her doctorate at Northern Illinois University. She worked at the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and Rotary International’s Asia-Pacific region from 2002 to 2004.

Her husband, Major Bryan Bowlsbey is an Iraq war vet and a National Guard officer.

In Hawaii over Memorial Day, Duckworth talked to reporters and closed down rumors she may run for a Senate seat from her native Hawaii.

Said Duckworth: “As honored as I am by all those who’d like me to run here — and I get asked that question all the time — my home and my National Guard unit are in Illinois. And if I run for office again, it’ll be there,” she told Hawaii reporters.

There is a potential for a Democratic primary. Former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi has already announced he will run in the 8th congressional district. He lost his his Democratic primary election for state comptroller in 2010.

Former 8th Distict Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), defeated last November by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is the new President and CEO of The Executives’ Club of Chicago and is not looking for a rematch in 2012.

Gov. Quinn has not yet signed the new map, which will be challenged in federal court by Illinois Republicans. No Republican has yet staked a claim in the new 8th.

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