Congressional candidates debate at forum : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Congressional candidates debate at forum|
|Foster backs tax cuts, Hultgren says 'spending out of control'|
|by Tony Scott|
All four of the candidates running for the 14th Congressional District seat gathered for their first debate Monday evening at a raucous forum that was almost shut down.
The Leagues of Women Voters of the Elgin Area and Central Kane County hosted a forum for the congressional candidates, followed by a brief forum for those running for the General Assembly in the 49th and 50th House and 25th Senate districts, at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles.
Congressional candidates Rep. Bill Foster, D-Batavia, Republican Randy Hultgren of Winfield, Green Party candidate Dan Kairis of Elgin, and write-in Libertarian candidate Doug Marks of Carpentersville all participated in the forum. Following the congressional forum, State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, her opponent, Democrat Linda Healy of Aurora, and State Senator Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, and his opponent, Democrat Leslie Juby of Geneva, all spoke briefly on their positions.
During their respective introductory statements, Hultgren said that government spending was out of control, while Foster said he voted for tax cuts and is a centrist, Kairis said that special interests were controlling the "entrenched" major political parties, and Marks also attacked the two major parties, asking "Are you getting your money's worth?"
When asked about getting people back to work in the district, Kairis pointed to the cost of overseas wars, the trade deficit with China and the importing of foreign oil as equal to the salaries for several thousand people that could be employed in the United States.
Marks said it's "not up to the federal government to create jobs... it's the private sector that creates wealth in our country." He said the tax burden on individuals and corporations is "ridiculous," but said the government needs to "end corporate welfare."
Foster said the key to job creation in the district starts with manufacturing and industrial businesses. He said he is experienced with creating jobs, noting that he started a manufacturing business with his brother. He also said he agreed with Marks and Kairis that special interests have installed preferences for businesses that have offshored jobs.
Hultgren said job creation is "the most important issue" in the campaign. He said businesses are hesitant to grow because of the tax burden and the anticipated cost of the health care law. "There's so much uncertainty out there," he said.
On the issue of education funding, Marks said there is an "overburden of bureaucracy" affecting the school system and those who teach. Foster said he voted for measures to bring money to local schools, but said the problem is "not going to be easy to fix," adding that the school funding system in Wisconsin works better than the one in Illinois. Foster added that the current system should be replaced with one where "the amount of money spent on a student doesn't depend on where he lives."
Hultgren said the problem with education funding is the unfunded mandates from government and said there should be more local control and have "families involved" in education. He said tax money "gets caught up in bureaucracy." Kairis said that the U.S. government spends too much money on the defense budget instead of on education, that the No Child Left Behind Act was nothing but bureaucracy, and that teachers are burdened with too many mandates.
When asked if Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military policy that prevents homosexual soldiers from serving openly, Hultgren was the lone candidate opposed to its repeal. Foster said he has spoken with military all over the country and that he was "surprised at the change in attitudes" and that it "just doesn't matter when you're fighting and risking your life in defense of your country."
Hultgren said the government should "honor our generals" and keep the policy in place.
"They've clearly stated that it's a policy that should continue," he said. "I see too often again that we are trying to use our military as an experiment, and I just think that's so unfortunate."
Kairis said the policy should have never been put into place, and Marks also said he was against the policy.
"Humans are humans, soldiers are soldiers," Kairis said. "We don't ask any other questions - do you favor this, do you favor that. It just doesn't make any sense to me. My answer would be, it should be repealed."
When asked about the government's role in Internet security, Hultgren said it's government's "overarching responsibility that we have to make sure our nation is safe," and noted that there have been no major terrorist attacks on the country since 2001. However, he also said it's a "constant struggle... protecting our rights and at the same time protecting our nation."
But Kairis said it's "been a pretty hollow victory," giving examples of unwarranted wiretaps and the recent raiding of anti-war activists' homes by the FBI. He said the United States has to "look in a different direction."
Marks said the Patriot Act is "just a stepping stone to take away our First Amendment rights."
Foster said the "complexity of this is enormous," adding that the "rules that we've set up are inapplicable, in civil terms, to the rules that we've lived with for decades."
The FairTax, immigration
When asked about the FairTax, which is a 23 percent consumption-based sales tax that would replace income and other federal taxes, the opinions differed among the candidates.
TV commercials promoting the Foster campaign have portrayed Hultgren as a proponent of the FairTax, a charge that Hultgren has adamantly denied. The Foster camp has uploaded a video to YouTube that features audio of Hultgren at a Kane County township Republican meeting in April voicing his approval of the FairTax.
The audio from April includes Hultgren stating that he is "absolutely" in favor of an alternative to "our current system." He also states, "I'm very open and would be supportive of a FairTax and would also be supportive of some sort of flat tax."
When the candidates were asked Monday about the FairTax, Foster said the FairTax would be "one of the most regressive steps in taxation you could imagine. It's a massive tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires in society." However, he said he would support simplifying the tax code.
Hultgren said he is "opposed to all tax increases" and said he is the only person in the race who signed a pledge not to raise taxes. He said Foster is spreading "a lie."
Kairis said the wealthy are influencing the tax laws "while the rest of us suffer," and that the system needs to be more equal. Marks said the FairTax "may be worth looking at," but that the government needs to cut spending first.
On the issue of the Arizona immigration law, Marks said the government needs to "cut the welfare for these illegal aliens." Foster, however, said immigration reform "must start with securing our borders," and that "workplace enforcement is the key."
Hultgren said the federal government is "not enforcing the law," and also that it needs to clean up the bureaucracy.
Kairis said the United States has been "complacent" in letting illegal immigrants come here, and said the government should give them an incentive to apply for citizenship after they are sent back to their native countries.
Hultgren, Foster camps
Minutes after the congressional debate concluded, Hultgren's campaign manager, John Cooney, issued a statement touting Hultgren as the winner.
"With his clearly articulated, positive vision for the future and his commonsense solutions to the problems confronting our nation's economy and workforce, Randy Hultgren was clearly the winner in tonight's debate," Cooney said. "Voters have a choice between Bill Foster's unwavering support for Nancy Pelosi's reckless agenda of rampant spending, higher taxes and bigger government or Hultgren's plans for limiting the size and scope of our federal government, lower taxes and responsible government. Voters in the 14th District realize that Congress is broken and that Randy Hultgren will fight to restore a commonsense approach in Washington."
Foster's campaign shot back on Tuesday, with spokesman Shannon O'Brien emphasizing Foster's moderate positions on issues.
"Last night's debate demonstrated the difference between Congressman Foster, who carefully studies legislation, analyzes all sides of an issue and takes moderate positions... and State Senator Randy Hultgren, who spews extreme and partisan talking points, and who can't even remember his own record," O'Brien said.