GIBSON CITY — Illinois Senate candidates Shane Cultra and Jason Barickman displayed little difference on a wide range of issues at a tea-party meeting Saturday night.
The two will be on the Republican ballot March 20 in the 53rd Senate District that includes parts of Champaign, Vermilion, Ford and Iroquois counties. The debate was held at the Railside Golf Club in Gibson City, and was sponsored by the Ford County Tea Party group.
Both Cultra and Barickman indicated some level of support for term limits but neither offered specifics, nor pushed the other to do so. They were equally uncertain about limits for individual lawmakers.
"I'm really open to any discussion for term limits for legislators," Cultra said. "I don't know if it's eight years or 10 years, but I'd certainly be willing to work with somebody and come up with something."
Barickman said, "we should all keep an open mind regarding term limits with the idea of getting it done."
Following the hourlong debate, both of the candidates acknowledged there were few differences on issues.
"I don't think there's a lot of difference in terms of issues. But there's a huge difference in experience, there's no doubt about that," said Cultra, who was appointed to the Senate last year after serving in the House. "I have a record to prove where I say I am. I say I'm a fiscal and social conservative. You can look at the record. I'm not just whistling 'Dixie.'"
Barickman, a Champaign attorney who was appointed to Cultra's House seat last year, agreed that "our voting records are very similar."
After the debate he noted that he and Cultra differed on using legislative scholarships and on their votes on tax breaks for Sears Corp. and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, points he did not address at the forum.
"My intention since day one has never been to say it's about Jason or Shane," Barickman said. It's about making sure that the people of the 53rd District are represented by someone who brings effective, conservative leadership to Springfield."
The candidates said they would support a law requiring photo ID to vote in Illinois.
"It won't happen in Illinois because the Democrats won't allow it," Cultra said. Barickman said it "just makes sense."
Both also voiced support for right-to-work legislation, a concealed-carry gun law, worker's-compensation system changes and reforming the state's pension system, but they generally agreed that none of the measures was guaranteed passage this year with the Legislature controlled by Democrats.
Regarding the outlook for pension-law changes, Cultra said, "I don't look for a lot of movement this year because it's an election year."
Barickman said he thought support was building for concealed carry in the Illinois House, noting that one Chicago Democrat said he was open to the idea.
"I'm going to work on him and his friends and make this happen in our state," Barickman said.
Saturday night's forum also featured the five Republican candidates in the 106th House District, where no incumbent is running. That solidly Republican district, where there is no Democratic candidate yet, stretches from just north of Danville on the southeast to Dwight on the north. It includes Gibson City, Paxton, Hoopeston, Rossville, Gilman and Watseka.
The five hopefuls are Brian Gabor and Scott McCoy of Pontiac, Tom Bennett of Gibson City, Josh Harms of Watseka and Richard Thomas of Dwight.