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Candidates stake out positions at forum : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Candidates stake out positions at forum
Kendall County Farm Bureau hosts event at historic courthouse

by Tony Scott


Candidates for the 14th Congressional District, 50th State House District, 97th State House District and 75th State House District voiced their opinions on a variety of topics at a candidate forum last Wednesday sponsored by the Kendall County Farm Bureau.

The forum was held at the Historic Kendall County Courthouse in downtown Yorkville.

50th State House District

Beth Goncher of Aurora, William Keck of Sugar Grove, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego, three of the four Republican candidates in that party's primary, attended the forum. Brett Haase of Montgomery gave a statement on behalf of candidate Julie Cosimo of Oswego, who could not attend because of an injury.

The winner of the GOP contest will oppose Democratic Party candidate Valerie Burd of Yorkville. The seat is currently held by State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, who is retiring at the end of this term.

All three of the candidates said they opposed making the income tax increase from 2011 permanent, and lamented the business climate in the state.

"We are not a competitive state in how the business communities in our region see us," Wheeler said.

Asked about an increase in the state's minimum wage, all three candidates opposed such a measure.

"When you increase the minimum wage, you affect the small businessman who has to pay the start-up wages for people, who are primarily students, so I would oppose it from that point," Keck said.

All three candidates also support term limits for public officials.

"Time and again, we have the same problems that keep cropping up, and that's because we have the same people that are driving things," Goncher said.

Regarding pension payments, Wheeler said there needs to be a defined contribution program; Keck said the state needs to "abide by the laws of the various union positions" and allow workers to go into a private plan instead of a public pension; Goncher said the issue "goes back to term limits and examining our government from within."

"I wish we could wave a magic wand and move to a defined contribution program, because it would solve issues permanently rather than trying to figure out how we get through the next set of (election) cycles," Wheeler said.

Regarding the reduction or elimination of collective bargaining rights for public unions, a la Wisconsin, Wheeler said it's "worth examining," while Goncher said the state should bring unions back to the bargaining table.

"I don't disagree that we need unions and collective bargaining, but I think you have to watch that they don't usurp too much power," Keck said.

The panel was also asked about their support for concealed carry and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All three said they supported the amendment.

Goncher said she was concerned about delays in obtaining concealed carry licenses; Wheeler said he is "extremely pro-Second Amendment," and said he'd like to get rid of the FOID card; and Keck said he agreed, but that the state needs to make sure there are "strict training methods and procedures."

"We need some various restrictions in terms of where they are allowed to be carried," Keck said.

Goncher said she was concerned about a progressive income tax - the state now charges a flat income tax rate, where all income levels pay the same rate.

"I really think those things can be devestating to businesses and middle class families, and will continue to drive our state further down," she said. "I'm also concerned about the prospect of raising minimum wage. I don't see what it does to help our economy in any way. I don't think it will create jobs - I think it will kill jobs."

Wheeler said he was concerned about Medicaid, which he said was "rife with fraud right now."

"We have no means testing, we don't even have residency testing for most of this," he said.

97th State House District

Candidates Mark Batinick of Plainfield, Richard Chapman of Shorewood and Amanda Mancke of Oswego are battling for the Republican Party nomination in their primary race. The winner will face Democrat Dennis Grosskopf of Shorewood in the November general election.

The district seat is currently held by State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, who is running for state treasurer and will step down from his legislative position at the end of his term.

The first question addressed concealed carry and the Second Amendment. All said they were in favor of the concealed carry legislation.

"I believe that an armed public is a public that can take care of itself," Chapman said. "When the politicians believe that they can take over, and they can run your life for you, an armed public needs to be there."

The candidates also voiced their opinions on a new online standardized test for schoolchildren called PARCC.

Mancke called it another "unfunded mandate that's bogging down our schools." She said teachers and students need to be assessed, because students are coming to college unprepared, but that this system is "not the way to do it."

Batinick said "everything comes back to the economy," and that the suburbs should get more fair funding compared to the City of Chicago.

Chapman said his children made it through the system, but "we can all see the system is about to fail."

Batinick said drug testing for Medicaid recipients is "something worth exploring" if the savings offset the cost of the program. Chapman said he was in favor of drug testing "for anybody who receives any kind of public aid."

Mancke said the state has increased Medicaid rolls, and that other states have done suspicion-based drug testing. She said such testing is "not only about money - it's about getting people clean and healthy."

Regarding property tax reform and a proposed progressive income tax, Chapman lamented school administrators retiring "on these golden pension plans."

Mancke said the City of Chicago receives more property tax income share than the suburbs, and that she is in favor of looking at overhauling the school funding formulas.

Batinick said property taxes can be lowered - he said other taxes have gone up too. He said it's "about jobs and the economy," and that if the unemployment rate was lower the state would receive more revenue.

14th Congressional

Dennis Anderson of Gurnee and John Hosta of Spring Grove are the Democratic Party candidates for their party's primary. The winner will oppose incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, in the November general election.

The first issue discussed was immigration. Hosta said the U.S. needs "to close down the borders right away." He also said he would be in favor of a pathway to citizenship unless they were involved in "dishonest employment."

Anderson said the proposal recently presented by the U.S. Senate was "pretty good" and that he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"I think we need to take particular note of simplification in the visa processes, particularly for agricultural workers, is a good example of an area that we need to simplify and ensure that our needs are addressed," he said.

Hosta said he was against "any type" of military cuts, and that there is "too much chaos in the world" and "too much threat to the United States."

"We need to reinforce our military and make it stronger," he said.

Anderson said he would defer to military experts regarding cuts in the military.

"The nature of warfare has changed dramatically over the past couple decades, and we're seeing a much less personnel-intensive type of warfare than we've had in the past," he said.

Anderson also said that, when it comes to caring for veterans, the U.S. "should spare no expense, frankly."

"Those people have given their all for this country and we should spare no expense," he said.

Regarding the proposal to extend Metra service out to Kendall County, Anderson said he is in support of the project "all the way out to Sandwich."

"I think it would be a great boost to the economy out here," he said.

Hosta said he supports it and that it's "ridiculous that we haven't gone ahead with the money we've already spent."

75th State House District

Ron Severson of Morris attended the forum, while his opponent in the Republican primary, incumbent State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, was in session in Springfield.

Regarding the pension issue, Severson said at the county level, they "never, ever take away what we've promised."

"What we've promised people - the teachers, anybody that was in the program - should not have one thing taken away," he said. "And I think the Supreme Court will tell the General Assembly 'you can't do that,' and we're back to square one."

Severson also said, however, that the pension system is "too generous."

"We have a pension system that is too costly, people can retire too early, and people live a long time," he said.

Severson said he wants the Affordable Care Act to "go away." He said he wants to see both drug and means testing for Medicaid, because he said there are problems with the system.

"I think the people who should be in there would get better benefits if we can get people out that shouldn't be in there," he said.

Asked about the legalization of marijuana in the state, Severson said we "have so many people in jail because of drugs," but that marijuana is a "gateway drug."

"Myself, I couldn't say let's legalize smoking pot in Illinois," he said.

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