Early fireworks, then agreement in forum for 13th District candidates

Early fireworks, then agreement in forum for 13th District candidates

BLOOMINGTON -- A candidate forum with three of the four contenders for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 13th District started with some fireworks Thursday night, but soon settled into agreement on most issues.

The fourth candidate, Jerry Clarke of Urbana, was unable to attend the forum. He was at Fort Knox, Ky., on Army Reserves duty, according to Bloomington developer Ed Brady, who made an opening statement on his behalf but was unable to participate in a lengthy question-and-answer session.

About 150 people attended the forum at the Eastland Suites Conference Center in Bloomington. It was the fifth open forum among the candidates in the last two weeks.

One final session is scheduled for Friday night in Carlinville before the 14 GOP county chairmen in the congressional district meet Saturday in Springfield to choose the GOP contender to go up against Democrat David Gill in November.

Kathy Wassink of Shipman opened the forum with a number of sharp attacks on Erika Harold, the Urbana native and Harvard Law School graduate who won praise for her performance at a forum in Champaign last Saturday night.

More recently Harold has worked at a Chicago law firm.

"There are two women in this race. Both of us are working really hard," she said. "But let's be specific about the differences of the two women. I am 48, almost 49 years old. I've had many life experiences that have led me to this position. I know what it is to raise a family, get up and drop your child at day care. I know what it is to work and come home. I know what it is to build up a career and build up a business."

She then said that "there are different forms of conservatism because some people, when you come from different areas, you tend to maybe have different conservative views.

"For example, if you are a conservative in Chicago you might say to taxes that you do need to get taxed ... if there's the right situation. But a downstate conservative says no, that's not the case, you never tax in this environment."

Regarding tort reform, she said, "If you're a Chicago-based lawyer you may say that I have questions about tort reform. But as a downstate conservative I say no."

And on gun laws, Wassink said, "A Chicago-based conservative may say, I believe in the Second Amendment but I have to look at the language for concealed carry. A downstate conservative says no, like myself. I am for concealed carry 100 percent. I actually have a FOID card and a concealed carry card."

Harold didn't respond to the references in her introductory statement.

The candidates, including Rodney Davis of Taylorville, a top aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, generally agreed on most issues.

Asked about controlling Mexico's border with the United States, Harold said she supported securing the border but was less certain about dealing with illegal immigrants already here.

"One of the things that would be very important to me is to not use words that denigrate groups of people and to not have this debate in a way that uses inflammatory rhetoric," she said. "I think we have to speak to the respect and the dignity and the kindness of every human being."

"I haven't fully decided what to do with people who are here illegally," she added. "I think it's a very diffiicult issue. Securing the border is easy."

Davis said that the United States "has to have open levels of dialogue," even with dictators like Hugo Chavez.

"Because once we stop that dialogue, as we've seen in Cuba and other countries, it's pretty hard to get it back. Let's keep the dialogue open and continue to trade," he said.

Wassink said the United States "needs to stop borrowing from China."

One issue on which there was disagreement was the need for a federal concealed carry law. Davis said he would support one since Illinois is the only state now without such a law. But both Wassink and Harold said it was a state issue.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 18, 2012 at 8:05 am

Did anyone ask about ending the gridlock in congress?  Did anyone ask about ideas for improving the economy?  Who picked the issues for the candidates to discuss?  Why was there no swimsuit competition?  Well, it is not that important.......  The candidate will be picked tomarrow by the GOP leadership.  "And the winner is......"   He is unavailable this weekend; but he will comment when he returns.

Jeannette Beck wrote on May 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm
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I just have to say that your swim suit competition comment is sexist completely not necessary...

rsp wrote on May 19, 2012 at 3:05 am

I thought the swimsuit comment was funny. I didn't think it was sexist considering these folks haven't ran for election. They are having a little contest with their judges. Ask them what their criteria is in who they pick. It's an easy answer. It's not who can best serve the people. It's who they think has the best chance of beating Gill. So instead of serving the public they are looking at manipulating the public. Who has the right look, the background, gives the party line, etc. So they might as well have the swimsuit competition too. Or flip a coin. Because the voters were left out of the decision. You're just getting a show. 

Local Yocal wrote on May 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm
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"...Securing the border is easy."  If it were easy, it would have been done by now. Does Harold realize she is advocating for increasing a military presence that would likely inflame the violence at the border? Which would contradict her polyanna wishes:

"...not use words that denigrate groups of people and to not have this debate in a way that uses inflammtory rhetoric," she said. "I think we have to speak to the respect and the dignity and the kindness of every human being."

What is this person doing in the Republican Party? Does the future congressgal really have the guts to write the bill that authorizes pointing guns at poor people (women and children included) who are desperate to get away from the violence of the drug cartels, fat on prohibition and the drug trade's lucrative profits?

Real legislation is not a clever contest of who can be most PC at the debate club. Securing the border ain't no joke. She ought to get out of the high rise in Chicago and take a drive along New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, at night to find out how "easy" securing the boarder really would be. I guess such foolish talk will sound good on a East Central Illinois buffet tour with a few newspaper reporters.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I don't know why they even had a forum.  The selection of the candidate is up to the GOP leadership.  They are going to be making that decision themselves.  The voters have no say so in it.  Why did they have the forum?  Was it a PR move representing democracy?  Clarke did not send any responses to the issues.  He is away doing his military duty right now.  I don't fault him for that.  The other three are going to feel used when Clarke gets the nod.  Maybe, they knew that from the beginning; but the whole thing seems silly this late in the game. 

johnny wrote on May 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Talk is cheap.  If I hear the words "open" and "transparent" one more time about a local political appointment, I may throw up.

Mark Taylor wrote on May 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

And another thing, why aren't any of the so called conservative REPUBLICANS talking about the news that FINALLY PROOVES OBAMAO IS AN UNAMERICAN KENYAN BORN SOCIALIST NON-AMERICAN?

Brietbart and Drudge have the PROOF. All REPUBLICANS need to STAND UP FOR AMERICA and put this UnAmerican Kenya IMPOSTER IN JAIL WHERE HE BELONGS!

jthartke wrote on May 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm

And the Republican's stage play in democracy continues its district wide tour trying to convince people they have a say in who their candidate gets to be. I hope Habeeb Habeeb was there, as his vote is one of the half dozen who even really count by weight in this farce.

johnny wrote on May 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Was this article proofread at all?  There are four major misspellings.