UPDATED: Congressional candidate forums
Here's where you'll find coverage of the candidate forums for the Democratic and Republican primaries for the 13th District of the U.S. House.
The Democratic candidates are Ann Callis, George Gollin and David Green.
The Republican cancidates are Erika Harold and Michael Firsching, both of whom will attend, and incumbent Rodney Davis, who is not attending.
You can follow Tom Kacich via Twitter during the forum.
You'll also find coverage on The News-Gazette's Twitter feed.
The forums will be broadcast live on Champaign's government access Channel 5 on Comcast and Channel 99 on AT&T U-verse. It also will be live-streamed on the city's website, ci.champaign.il.us/cgtv.
Here is coverage from Wednesday's forums for Champaign County Board candidates.
Ann Callis vs. George Gollin vs. David Green
CHAMPAIGN — Champaign Democrat David Green may not have won the hearts of the more than 100 people at a congressional candidates forum Thursday night, but he certainly stood out.
Right from the start, the social-policy analyst at the University of Illinois set himself apart from his two better-known opponents, former Madison County Judge Ann Callis and UI physics professor George Gollin.
Asked what his priorities would be as Illinois’ 13th Congressional District representative, Green said, “Bringing our troops home and dismantling both our empire of bases and our unconstitutional national surveillance state, ending the unjust and racially biased war on drugs, which is a war against the poor and a war against black males, and ending poverty, especially among children in this wealthy country.”
Gollin said his top priority is bringing jobs into the congressional district that stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Edwardsville and Collinsvile on the southwest.
“We would like to move toward producing clean energy. We would like to increase the affordability of education,” he said. “We would like to make sure that the Affordable Care Act evolves into something that works productively.”
Callis, who lives in Edwardsville, said her top issues would be jobs, ending income inequality and preserving Social Security and Medicare.
“What’s going on in Springfield, for instance, is that there are investments in rehabbing homes in blighted areas,” she said. “If we expand on those programs with good prevailing-wage jobs, we can replicate that and people can become first-time homebuyers and we can stimulate our economy immediately.”
The three agreed on many issues, including support for same-sex marriage and the Senate immigration reform bill that has not been taken up by the House. There was some consensus on the issue of a carbon tax to reduce pollution.
On the latter, Gollin said, “This is an issue that shows why it would be helpful to have scientific expertise in Congress. We really need to embed questions about specific energy policies into a much larger program involving new forms of energy production, how to deal with the waste that comes about from nuclear (power) and other things.”
Callis was less certain, saying, "Well I think that the climate change issue is a grave, grave issue not only for the U.S., but also for the world. And now that we’ve had, I know some of you have heard this, in just the past few weeks we’ve had terribly cold weather across this nation, and now people are saying, they are denying that climate change exists just because its cold outside, denying 30 years trends, an abundance of scientific evidence. So I do believe that we have to make some changes and really be cognizant of what is going on with our environment."
On the issue of same-sex marrage, she said “people shouldn’t be discriminated against by whom they love.”
Regarding preserving the Social Security system, Green and Gollin suggested removing the cap on the payroll tax.
“On that basis,” Green said, “with rich people paying the same flat tax on their entire income, we could probably lower the level of the payroll tax and increase payments from something like $1,200 a month to $1,500 per month.”
Gollin added, “All it takes to fix (Social Security) is to remove the cap on income that is set at roughly $120,000. There’s no reason that someone earning a million dollars a year should pay he same amount into the system as someone earning $120,000 a year.”
Callis said she opposes a “chained CPI” that would limit Social Security benefit growth “and any type of privatization of Social Security that was proposed by the Republicans.”
Gollin and Callis endorsed a plan to allow graduates to pay off their college loans with either community, volunteer or military service.
“This is something we’ve been talking about off and on in higher ed for quite a while. It’s a very good idea,” Gollin said.
Callis added, “It would be a fantastic idea for people who want to dedicate their lives to public service then to be able to graduate from these programs without debt.”
But Green responded, “I don’t accept the assumption that students should be graduated from school in debt.”
He said college, preschool and day care should be subsidized by the government.
“How about making it really simple? Let’s make college free. Let’s get rid of student debt and then we won’t have to have all of these convoluted ways of solving a problem that shouldn’t be there in the first place,” he said.
Among those at Thursday’s forum was David Gill, the Bloomington physician who was the 13th District’s Democratic candidate against Republican Rodney Davis in 2012. Gill lost by less than a half a percentage point in a three-way race.
— TOM KACICH
Erika Harold vs. Michael Firsching
CHAMPAIGN — Attending the Republican Congressional debate in Champaign on Thursday night was like watching the final round of the Miss America Pageant, except that one of the finalists was in Trenton, N.J., instead of host city Atlantic City.
Attorney, former Miss America and GOP candidate Erika Harold of Urbana faced off in a debate against veterinarian Michael Firsching of Midway (near Edwardsville) at the Champaign City Building, but incumbent Rodney Davis was about 45 miles away, taking part in the Decatur Lincoln Day Dinner.
“I would want to go to Washington, D.C., and be willing to make votes that might be unpopular if I ultimately thought they served my constituents’ best interests,” Harold said.
“My entire life government has gotten bigger and bigger,” Firsching said. “Government at the federal level should be small and constitutional.”
Harold said she has a greater commitment to reducing the national debt than Davis.
“I would not have supported the last budget because I thought it did very little to address the largest drivers of our national debt and sort of kicked the can down the road,” she said. “Not only did that budget not address spending, but it targeted the very nominal cuts that were made toward veterans’ pensions. To me that was unacceptable because we were asking sacrifice from the one group of people who sacrificed the most.”
Harold said her life experience as an attorney representing businesses also differentiates her from Davis.
“I believe that most of his experience has been spent working in the political process. Mine has been spent working in the private sector,” she said. “I believe if you have private-sector experience, where you are representing businesses and working with people who have to make a budget and have to deal with a profit margin, it gives you are greater appreciation for the importance of not saddling businesses with unnecessary regulations.”
Harold said she is the person who can uniquely help the Republican Party “to grow in ways to engage people who are not currently engaged in the Republican Party.”
Firsching described himself as more of a constitutionalist and economist than his two opponents. He said his primary goal is to promote more regional and local control over people’s lives.
“My emphasis is going to be to get the country back under control instead of this endless growth, bigger and bigger government and more and more deficit spending,” he said. “We’ve got to get some sense back into government.”
He said he favors a shift toward more private-sector involvement in people’s lives rather than government.
“I’m running not because Rodney Davis isn’t a nice guy, because I think he really is. But I definitely disagree with him politically as far as the role of government,” he said. “He has voted yes for too many things which increased the size of government, increased budgets.”
Harold said she would oppose any efforts to eliminate federal Pell grants, which provide money for students who need it to pay for college.
“I want to make sure that this on-ramp to our educational system is something that is important,” Harold said. “I was able to pay for my law school education in a unique way. I became Miss America to pay for law school, but I know that most students are not going to become Miss America to pay for school.”
Firsching disagreed, saying the number one cause of the skyrocketing cost of education is too much money being made available from the federal government.
“What we need to be doing is bring universities back to a market model,” he said. “We need to get back to the days when you can go to school and pay for it by doing a side job.”
Harold said her top three priorities if she is elected would be reducing the national debt, reforming the healthcare system and protecting constitutional freedoms.
“I don’t think the Affordable Healthcare Act has served constituents well,” she said. “I’ve heard people throughout the district talk about losing their insurance programs and having to pay increased premiums.”
Firsching said his top three priorities would be addressing concerns over the federal reserve system, balancing the budget and making government smaller.
“My priorities reflect my extreme trepidation about the financial precipice I think we are on,” he said. “I think our economy is suffering due to government dominating and not giving the private sector much of a chance.”
The debate was sponsored by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and The News-Gazette.
The three Republicans have agreed to an on-air radio debate from 7 to 8 a.m. March 10 on Bloomington radio station WRPW 92.9 FM.
— TIM MITCHELL