All four Democratic candidates for Illinois' Third Congressional District appeared Sunday afternoon at a League of Women Voters forum at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange. The small to medium-sized meeting room had an overflow crowd, which seemed to be mostly affluent, “White” suburbanites with relatively few seniors.
The organizers seated Mark Pera
(Western Springs) on the left (from the audiences perspective), Jerry Bennett
(Palos Hills), Jim Capparelli
(Chicago) and Dan Lipinski
(Western Springs) on the right. The moderator had the candidates answer questions in a random order.
Lipinski started awkwardly. He arrived late and then started by complaining he hadn't gotten the questions in advance like the other candidates. The organizers wanted candidates to address health care and immigration in their five-minute opening statements. Lipinski asked to give his opening statement last so he could prepare while the others spoke. The moderator didn't respond to the request for a few seconds. Pera was scheduled in the fourth spot and offered it to Lipinski; Lipinski thanked Pera for making the exchange.
Capparelli emphasized his “working class background” and his military experience. He's a combat veteran (Grenada
) and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. Capparelli favored forcing employers to provide health insurance coverage. Lipinski also shared this opinion, but wanted a lower employee threshold (20 vs. 50 employees).
Pera gave his background on the Lyons Township school board and working as an assistant state's attorney (environmental crimes, public utility regulation). He emphasized the contrast between him and Lipinski on abortion rights, the Iraq War and warrantless wiretapping. Pera favors abortion rights and capping funding for the war to force the President to withdraw. He's critical of President Bush asserting a right to surveil U.S. citizens without a warrant. On health care Pera expressed optimism the Democrats would win the presidency and said, “We are going to get universal health care. I will support it.”
Bennett grew-up in Chicago in a large Irish family. He was elected mayor of Palos Hills at age 30. He's been mayor 27 years and has been a leader in coordinating mayors on municipal issues. He made a point of how the Iraq War is diverting funding from spending for local projects to spending overseas. Bennett said:
As local officials, as local mayors, we are already on the cutting edge. Whether it has to do with issues of environment or, again, economic development, creating jobs with good health care benefits. We have been in the trenches doing that. We haven't waited for Washington. We have taken the initiative locally to solve those kind of problems. And I believe as the Congressman I can bring that experience to Washington and bring back to this metro region, and specifically this district, the type of federal fundings and assistance that we need. And we need it desperately. Washington over the last few years has taken a step away under the this administration. This Bush administration has lost where local government [fits into the economic picture] and the ability of local government to be the economic engine in this country. In fact, 79% of the Gross National Product in this country is generated by cities. We need to reestablish that federal-city partnership.
Lipinski identified himself as a former engineer, in addition to being a former educator. (He was a political science professor.) Lipinski claimed to have done things to help families, the economy, the environment, seniors and veterans. “I have delivered results for the people of the Third District.”
Unfortunately today middle class families are being increasingly squeezed by higher costs, higher property taxes and stagnant wages. That's why I helped pass a bill that protects 82,000 families in the Third District from being hit by the AMT this year.
Bennett and Capparelli espoused a conventional view of immigration. The federal government should do more to keep undocumented aliens out. There should be some path to citizenship for immigrants already here. Employers should be held accountable for hiring illegal workers. And undocumented immigrants should receive basic legal protections. Bennett specifically said he supports the Kyl-Gutierrez bill.
Pera did not address the immigration issue even though the LWV asked all candidates to speak to the issue in their opening statements.
Lipinski said, “We cannot allow those who are here illegally to get a leg up on becoming citizens.” [UPDATE:
Pera did address immigration. I either missed recording it or missed apprehending it when I was listening to the recording. Pera said,
Immigration: I hope you all saw the article in The Doings, the endorsement in The Doings, the strong endorsement. We had a long conversation at The Doings about immigration. It's set forth in the pamphlet that you've probably got, but the fact of the matter is we need to secure the borders, we need to secure the ports. We need to crack down on employers who are taking advantage of the undocumented, but we have to do it in a humane way and we have to find a path to citizenship for those that are already here. We can't have a situation where a woman who is raped, or is the victim of domestic violence is afraid to go to the police.Social Security:
NCLB (“No Child Left Behind” Act):
- “Social Security is not in jeopardy,” Lipinski. “We cannot use Social Security to pay for our yearly deficits.”
- Capparelli favors removing cap for Social Security withholdings.
- Pera discussed the possibility that Baby Boomers would work past retirement which would cause more people to continue to pay into the system and delay drawing out.
- Bennett expressed reservations about putting the money in the stock market.
- Lipinski favored more fed funding for local districts and wants to change how AYP is measured.
- Bennett favored the federal government investing in capital improvement of schools.
- Capparelli expressed his support for funding federal mandates.
- Pera said,
It is and is going to be the largest unfunded mandate from the federal government, the largest back door property tax increase, that any of us are going to see on our property tax bills as school systems attempt to meet the requirements of the law. The fact of the matter is that by 2014 every school in this country will be run by the federal government, which is something that none of us want to see happen. I haven't heard yet anyone say really what they will do in regard to this law. But it's coming up for reauthorization. And if it can't be substantially corrected then I would not vote to reauthorize it. Sure, it's a catchy sounding name. But it hasn't accomplished what it's intended to do. Without adequate federal funding to meet the goals then I don't think it should be reauthorized.Energy, fossil fuels:
- Bennett supported bio-fuels and increasing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. “We need to get away from Middle Eastern oil and all foreign oil. And that can be done by alternatives in this country.” He went on to mention local government's role in reducing congestion and creating green cities.
Well, I've been a leader in Congress in pushing legislation to do this. I helped to write the new energy law that just passed that increases fuel efficiency standards for cars. I helped write the law, to help Hydrogen to become a possible replacement for gasoline. I fought for--we passed in the House, the Senate took it out--a part of the energy bill that would tax energy companies $22 billion so that money woud go to alternative fuel research. I strongly support alternative fuel. I think we need to do that.... Some people want to open up places in the United States like Artic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore drilling. I have said no, and I have voted against doing that. We cannot threaten our environment, but we do need to get away from our dependence on foreign oil.
After Pera finished, Lipinski asked, “Do we have an opportunity to respond?” The moderator answered, “No, sir. Not at this point.... [You can later] if you choose to return to a prior question.”
- Capparelli mentioned that France gets much of its electrical power from nuclear and that the U.S. Navy operates nuclear reactors on submarines. He went on to say:
I feel very comfortable with nuclear energy as a way to reduce our foreign consumption of oil. I am for the drilling of resources off the coast. It doesn't mean their will be a natural catastrophe. But I'll tell you what: the working men and women of the Third Congressional District don't want to pay $200 to fill up their car.Stem cell research:
- Pera, supports embryonic stem cell research. “Congressman Lipinski was one of fourteen Democrats to uphold George Bush's veto of the stem cell research bill.”
I guess I also find it difficult for Congressman Lipinski, who brags about being the vice chairman of the science committee in Congress, that [he] would take a position against an important research in stem cells.
I do not support embryonic stem cell research. I have been a leader in getting funding for other types of stem cell research. We have seen the great advances that have been made in that regard. I'm a diabetic. People talk about people with diabetes maybe some of the first to be cured. I strongly support--y'know I'm an engineer, scientist--I strongly support science. I do not support tax payer funding going to embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research is legal in this country and it is going on.
Going back, check the record on oil. Check the record how I voted for the amendment to take drilling out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the energy bill a couple years ago. Check the record on how I voted three times this year to tax oil companies. Or check the record. I have received no money whatsoever from oil companies. Just because you say something, put something down on paper and send it out to people doesn't mean it's true.
I'm going to try to write-up the other questions later today, but I did want to get something posted sooner rather than later.
- Capparelli opposes embryonic stem cell research as “a question of faith” and identified himself as a “pro life” candidate.
After the Democrats spoke, Art Jones
(R-Chicago) spoke. I was walking out of the room and he railed against the federal government, starting with the Iraq War. He began at a borderline yell and escalated the volume and intensity as he spoke. You can read more on Jones in this Proviso Probe entry
To disclose fully, I did place a Mark Pera sign in the window this weekend, although I will probably vote for Jerry Pohlen, the Green Party candidate, in the general election.
Labels: Arthur Jones, candidate forum, Dan Lipinski, Gerald Bennett, IL03, Jim Capperelli, League of Women Voters, Mark Pera