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GOP candidates stake out positions at forum : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
GOP candidates stake out positions at forum
Congressional, state and county candidates address party faithful

by Tony Scott

1/23/2014

Republican Party candidates for local offices, the General Assembly, as well as U.S. Senate and the governor's mansion appeared at the Kendall County Republican Women's candididates' forum Monday evening at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.

The first candidate to speak at the forum was state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a Republican primary race against Doug Truax of Downers Grove. The winner of the primary will go on to challenge three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield. Truax did not appear at Monday's forum.

In his opening remarks, met with applause, Oberweis invoked the late African-American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Today is Martin Luther King Day, and I'd like you to know that I, too, have a dream," he said. "And that is that you will help me retire Dick Durbin in November."

Oberweis said 2014 will be a good year for Republicans, adding he will use Durbin's support of the Affordable Care Act against him in the fall campaign.

"Let me tell you, we have a YouTube (video) of Dick Durbin on the floor of the United States Senate saying, 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. I guarantee it,'" Oberweis said. "I think you can expect to see that on your TVs come October, or sooner."

Oberweis said he is also supporting a term limit petition on the November ballot that limits state legislators to eight years in Springfield.

"Here's a guy that's been in Washington for 32 years, saying give me six more," he said of Durbin.



Congressional candidates

Candidates for the 11th Congressional District, which is now being represented by Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, also spoke at the forum. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, who represents the 14th Congressional District, does not have a primary opponent.

11th District candidates Chris Balkema, Bert Miller, state Rep. Darlene Singer, and Ian Bayne appeared at the forum. A fifth candidate, Craig Robbins, was not present.

Balkema lamented that the state is spending more than it's taken in, and said he worked to reduce costs as a Grundy County Board member.

"There was an 18-0 vote for getting rid of the health care plan for board members that had just decided to award themselves with that," he said.

Bayne said there are "expectations" of Republican candidates, noting that they need to highlight the jobs report, handle the media and "piss people off."

"You have to be a real person - I think that's very important," he said.

Miller said "gridlock and partisan bickering" shut down the government last fall, and added that he isn't a politician.

"That shutdown is what got me in this race," he said.

Miller said that being a business owner meant he dealt with "burdensome government regulations."

He also seemed to take a swipe at his opponent, Senger.

"We need to elect someone who can win in November, not just a career politician because it's her turn," he said.

Senger said she was involved in the financial industry in the 1980s, adding that she "broke the glass ceiling."

Senger said she believes in lower taxes and less regulation. She said Foster's "seat was stolen from me with the redistricting."

Senger was elected in 2008 to the State House, defeating Democrat Dianne McGuire.

"I beat Mike Madigan," she said. "I know how to beat Democrats."

Asked a question about the Affordable Care Act, Balkema said Congress needs to "repeal Obamacare and not replace it." He said he is in favor of selling health insurance across state lines as a solution to the health care costs.

Bayne said he doesn't think the ACA was about health care.

"We have to realize that it's not about health care," he said. "It should be repealed, it should not be brought back, it should not be changed or reworked..."

Miller described the ACA as a "total train wreck."

"We are either going to take major surgery to Obamacare or repeal it," he said. "My personal opinion is, probably major surgery is the better way to go."

Senger said she is concerned about the thousands added on to the Medicaid rolls.

"Where are these people going to find doctors, and how are we going to pay for this?" she said.

An audience member asked about an "amnesty bill" for undocumented immigrants.

Bayne said the issue is a distraction.

"Amnesty, immigration," he said. "The country is falling apart, people want to talk about immigration because they want to talk about distractions."

Miller said the United States needs to "secure our borders" and said he supports "a pathway for undocumented workers to become citizens of this country."

Senger also said the U.S. should secure the borders "before anything else."



Guv candidate Dillard

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, was the lone candidate for governor to take the stage. Steve Kim, running mate of Dan Rutherford, and Evelyn Sanguinetti, running mate of Bruce Rauner, also made appearances.

Dillard described himself as a "conservative reformer who can actually win a general election in the state of Illinois."

"My vision of this state is to make us what I call a destination economy for people," he said.

Dillard said he wants to repeal the state gasoline sales tax, calling it a "tax on top of a tax."

Dillard said when he was chief of staff for former Gov. Jim Edgar, the administration left a budget surplus.

"We made Mike Madigan the minority leader, and Lee Daniels became speaker of the House," he said.

Dillard also said the state needs a "collar county governor."

"I'm going to be a governor for all of Illinois," he said.

Sanguinetti, an attorney, said she is a councilwoman-at-large in Wheaton.

"We're in DuPage County, a god-fearing community where we choose to raise our three children," she said.

Sanguinetti said she is a product of "the safety net," but that the state needs "sound jobs and a great education, so like me, we could rise out of the safety net and be all that we could be on our own."

Kim touted polls that he said show Rutherford beating Quinn. He said Rutherford has toured neighborhoods in Chicago.

"It's actually pretty funny - if you go to a restaurant in Chinatown, you will literally see a picture of Dan Rutherford and Jackie Chan next to him," Kim said. "That is the type of guy he is. He's been able to travel throughout the state, he's really been able to connect with the people. That's how he's going to win this race."



Treasurer candidate Cross

State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, touted his candidacy for state treasurer. His GOP opponent, DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan, did not appear at the forum but sent a representative.

Cross said the treasurer's office has been underutilized, and that the state has a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget.

"If it takes being the treasurer of the state of Illinois, and filing a lawsuit to make the governor and the General Assembly follow the constitution, we'll do that - whether it's Republican or Democrat," he said.

Cross said he wants to create a government integrity unit made up of prosecutors and financial experts.

"If I have to file a lawsuit to enforce the constitution of the state of Illinois, I can tell you, unlike the attorney general, I won't need to ask my dad if it's OK to sue the state of Illinois," he said.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen, representing Grogan, said Grogan is a CPA and a fraud examiner. He said Grogan was a "pioneer in transparency," putting DuPage County's books online.



50th State House District

In the 50th State House District race, candidate Keith Wheeler of Oswego was the only candidate at the forum. Cindy Carroll represented Julie Cosimo of Oswego, who was at home recovering from an injury. Candidates William Keck of Sugar Grove and Beth Goncher of Aurora did not appear at the forum.

Carroll gave Cosimo's biography, including that she is a college administrator and has a doctorate.

Wheeler said he is a small business owner and is involved in organizations such as the Kendall County Food Pantry. He said the state needs to be made attractive for businesses who want to come to Illinois.

Asked about reducing the cost of state government, Wheeler said even with the pension bill passed, the state's credit rating hasn't improved and the percentage of the state budget spent on pensions hasn't been reduced.

Wheeler said he wants to see a forensic audit of state spending.

Asked a question about conservative versus moderate Republicans, Wheeler said he considers himself a conservative.

"I'm one of those conservative Republicans who wants to stand up to the principles that make our party strong, and look at the concepts of the bold initiatives rather than the kind of pastel approach that maybe are somehow Democrat-light," he said.



75th State House District

State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, and his primary opponent, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson, both attended the forum.

Anthony, who grew up in Chicago, said he stands "as the single greatest threat to the Madigan regime."

"We now have a voice that can go into Chicago and rebut all of the lies told to so many people across this state," he said. "We can make Illinois great again."

Severson said he was an investigator for the Mercantile Exchange, leading him to "hate corruption and unfairness." Severson, on the county board since 2002, highlighted his successes in Grundy County.

"We cleaned up a lot of the government down there," he said. "I've been chairman for four years. We did major things... We have a better business climate, we balance the budget every year."

Asked about reducing the cost of state government, Severson said the average State Police patrolman salary is higher in Illinois than in other states.

"I think there needs to be cuts - we did it in Grundy, we can do it in Springfield," he said.

Anthony said he introduced a bill to go after those who sit on state boards that don't meet.

"$4.3 million just sitting there," he said. "Chairmen receiving $90,000, and those who sit on the board $45,000, to do nothing."

Anthony said he was also in favor of school choice, and reforming the funding of the education system.



97th State House District

The winner of the 97th State House District race will determine who replaces Cross, who currently represents the district. The three Republican candidates for the primary race - Mark Batinick of Plainfield, Shorewood Mayor Richard Chapman and Amanda Mancke of Oswego - appeared at Monday's forum.

Batinick said his hometown of Lansing, Ill., had been impacted by the effects of the bad economy in Illinois, while towns across the border in Indiana were doing better. He said that is why he is running for office.

"My childhood home was destroyed by a disaster, except it wasn't a natural disaster - it was a man-made disaster by the Democratic Party," he said.

Chapman said he fought increases in taxes and supported fee cuts while mayor of Shorewood. He said the state "doesn't work anymore."

"My God, they're bleeding us to death now," he said of state taxes.

Mancke said she is in favor of repealing the state income tax increase. She said there should also be a more equal funding for school districts in Illinois, noting that Chicago schools get $1 billion more than the rest of the state.

"I see the American dream slipping away - everyone in this room, their children and grandchildren," she said.

When asked about reducing the cost of government, Batinick said there are "a lot of unnecessary regulatory agencies, and I learn about new ones every day."

Chapman said there needs to be a change in the cost of living increase for pensions.

"An 80-year-old person should not be collecting a quarter of a million dollars a year in a nursing home," he said.

Mancke said she was in favor of drug testing Medicaid recipients, saying that Missouri has done that with success. Medicaid rolls have been decreased by 13 percent in that state, she said.

She said there should also be pension reform.

When asked about stricter voter identification requirements in Illinois, Chapman said he was in favor of such restrictions.

"You should be able to stand up there, and prove who you are," he said. "After all, when you look at it, we can't go anywhere without carrying an ID with us."

Mancke said she supports voter ID rules to "protect the integrity of a system that so many have given so much for."

Batinick said he "absolutely" supports it.

Moderator Carol Liske asked about "liberal-leaning" Republicans versus conservative Republicans in the party.

Mancke said the party is "at a crossroads" and is "very divided, and that's no secret."

"It will ultimately be up to the voters in primaries and in general (elections) to define those people who best meet their needs within the party," she said. "In terms of working amongst each other in the party, you have to find the common ground. You're never going to find every single issue as the common ground. I will strive to find common ground and work from there."

Batinick said the principles of the party are "what made our country great."

"This is a big tent party, but we're always afraid... even the question you have is a little bit defensive," he said. "Our principles are the principles that have made this country great. We shouldn't be shy about it - we should stand loud and proud and say, 'You know what, we made the country great. Your way is wrong, our way is right.'"

Chapman said he is "just a Republican."

"The Republican Party stands for hard work, effort, family, religion," he said. "What's wrong with that across the board? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's the Democrats that are telling us - the Republicans - that you don't have a diverse party. They're also making offers to every group out there to 'Come with us, we'll make sure the handouts keep going.' So, we get the blame, they point the finger and say, 'Well, you're not the party of handouts, you're not the party of this, you're not the party of that.' Well, OK, I accept. I guess I'll have to take that."



County Clerk campaign

County Clerk Debbie Gillette and her opponent in the primary, County Board member Dan Koukol, appeared at the forum.

Gillette pointed out her accomplishments over her years in office. She said she helped increase transparency in the office by putting more records online, including expenditure reports, ordinances, and County Board minutes as well as meeting audio.

Koukol said while the state was "broke," the county government is in "good shape" financially.

Koukol said he is in favor of electronic voting instead of paper ballots.

"Let's get away from this paper; there's too (much) room for mistakes," he said. "I've done the research on different companies that do this. It's not ungodly expensive."



Sheriff's race

The three candidates in the race to replace retiring Sheriff Richard A. Randall also appeared at the forum. Oswego Police Chief Dwight Baird, Plano Police Chief Steve Eaves, and Oswego resident and DuPage County Deputy Jeff Christiansen are running in the Republican primary.

In his remarks, Baird said that while the population of Oswego increased by 54 percent, the crime rate was reduced by 24 percent.

"I look to lower crime in Kendall County," he said.

Baird said the county should have a sheriff that is "answerable and accountable to you."

Christiansen said he wants to "restore the power here at the local level, to the people." He said he promises to address accountability, community and efficiency issues at the Sheriff's Office.

"The people of Kendall County deserve change," he said. "They want to be heard. They deserve integrity, and that's what I'll bring to the office both on-duty and off-duty."

Eaves pointed to a new police station built in Plano as one of his accomplishments.

Eaves said he wants to improve relations between the Sheriff's Office and municipal police departments. Eaves said he also wants to equalize the patrol zones, saying there are "too many areas in this county that don't see a deputy."

Baird said he would work with the Sheriff's Office staff to "get their perspective," get their ideas and see how those ideas can work within the office's budget.

Christiansen said he would conduct a community survey and an employee survey.

Eaves said he would do more to increase awareness of the problem of heroin in the community.

"(Heroin) has replaced marijuana - it's cheaper, and it's killing kids," Eaves said.



Kendall County Board

During the County Board candidates panel, District One candidates Judy Gilmour of Yorkville, Robert "HD" Davidson of Plano, Chris Funkhouser of Yorkville, Todd Milliron of Yorkville and Matt Prochaska of Bristol talked about their ideas and their accomplishments. Gilmour and Prochaska are incumbents. Amy Cesich, a third incumbent, is a Democrat and is unopposed in her primary.

Davidson - a former board member - said he has experience, knowledge and years of "making mistakes, and doing some correct things." He said the county should not increase its levy.

Funkhouser said he has been "getting results" as a Yorkville alderman, and that "some of those same issues are in the county."

Gilmour said she was "the only budget committee member that said, from the beginning, that I wanted a balanced budget." She also said she promises "honesty, hard work and commitment."

Milliron said he is "not shy about being a citizen journalist or bringing sunlight to our government."

Prochaska said he has pushed for transparency on the board, and wants the board to meet at night to make it easier for residents to attend.

District Two Republican incumbents Scott Gryder and Lynn Cullick attended. Primary challenger Jeremy Swanson was not at the forum. One Democrat, Kristine Heiman of Oswego, is running unopposed in her party's primary.

Cullick said she said she and her family are active volunteers and believe in giving back to their community. She said she was proud to report that they approved a balanced budget and a transparency plan for the county website.

Gryder also pointed to the transparency plan, and said he is on a committee to change the county's per diem policy. He said he has helped create better relationships between the county and the other taxing bodies.





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