Tammy Duckworth yesterday became the first Thai-American to join the US Congress after beating freshman Republican Joe Walsh in Illinois' eighth congressional district.
With 80 per cent of the votes counted as of press time last night, Duckworth led Walsh 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
“I am so humbled to be
elected representative of the 8th Congressional District,” Duckworth told supporters in suburban Chicago.
The Democrat was born on March 12, 1968, to Marine veteran Frank L Duckworth and Thai woman Lamai Sompornpairin.
She served in the US Army as a helicopter pilot and as commander of a Black Hawk company, she lost both her legs on November 12, 2004, when she was hit by enemy ground fire during a flight in Iraq.
She left the army the following month, holding the rank of major, and was granted a Purple Heart, an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal. She now serves in the Army National Guard in the rank of lieutenant colonel.
During her childhood, Duckworth travelled around Southeast Asia with her father, who worked with the United Nations. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and completed her master’s degree in international affairs at George Washington University.
Duckworth first ran for a seat in the US Congress in 2006, but lost to her contestant narrowly. In an interview with The Nation, she said that Thailand still had the ability to improve the lives of disabled people and engage them as active members of society. She also encouraged physically challenged Thai citizens to fight for their rights.