Illinois Rep. Walsh to skip GOP convention

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Washington (CNN) — Republican Rep. Joe Walsh on Thursday became the latest politician to announce he’s skipping his party’s convention, saying he would instead focus on holding campaign events in his Illinois district.

In a statement, Walsh said his decision reflected his status as a political outsider.

“Not as a candidate or as a Congressman have I ever been one of the political class,” Walsh wrote. “I came to Washington to serve the people of my district and reclaim our country from the growth of government. Rather than mingle with Party insiders in Tampa, I will be in the 8th district to continue to serve as an independent voice for the people.”

Walsh is currently engaged in a bitter fight for a seat representing the new 8th Congressional District located outside of Chicago and created by the state’s recent redistricting process. It’s widely expected to vote Democratic in November.

Walsh and his opponent Tammy Duckworth made headlines earlier this month as Walsh, a first-term congressman elected with wide tea party support, sharply criticized Duckworth for talking too much about her military service on the campaign trail.

A Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, Duckworth lost both legs and the use of one arm when her crew was shot down in 2004. She was later awarded the Purple Heart and continues to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

In his statement Thursday, Walsh presented Duckworth as a political insider more interested in advancing her career than representing constituents.

“My opponent, Tammy Duckworth, has always been the preferred pick of Democrat Party insiders from [former Illinois Gov. Rod] Blagojevich to [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emmanuel,” Walsh wrote. Blagojevich is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence for federal corruption charges.

Walsh continued, “I hope [Duckworth] will join me in skipping the conventions to tour the district to discuss the real issues that matter to real people. The conventions are nothing more than an excuse to mingle with insiders and party with the elite. This district does not want just another insider to represent them; they want an independent who will fight for real solutions to the issues.”

In early July, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman became the first of Mitt Romney’s former rivals from the Republican primaries to indicate they would not attend the convention. But a smattering of other Republicans have already indicated they will not be there.

Former Virginia Governor George Allen announced last week that he would not attend the convention due to the heated Virginia Senate race he’s engaged in. Heather Wilson and Rep. Denny Rehberg, both GOP Senate candidates in New Mexico and Montana respectively also will not attend the convention to focus on their own races.

CNN’s Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.