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Proviso Probe

Monday, February 02, 2009

IL-05: Dem candidate forum

On Superbowl Sunday, an overflow crowd attended a forum for Democratic candidates running to fill the vacancy created by Rahm Emanuel being appointed as President Barack Obama's chief of staff. The primary election for the IL-05 vacancy will be held Tuesday, March 3, 2009, and the contest be the Democratic, Republican and Green nominees will be April 7, 2009. The following Proviso communities are part of this district: Northlake and Melrose Park, minus a bit of southern part of the village.

The forum was at DePaul University and sponsored by twelve organizations, web sites or media outlets. Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet moderated the eleven candidates who were seated in alphabetical order.

I will discuss the candidates in a random order.

Paul Bryar (campaign, Wikipedia) has been a physician at Northwestern Hospital for ten years and has made it a priority to volunteer to provide low-income people health care in Cabrini-Green one day per week for those ten years. He favors a made-in-America tax cut. He admitted that two of his supporters had filed nominating petition challenges against other candidates. Bryar suggested the solution to earmarks would be to handle federal spending like how the National Institute of Health handles research priorities.

Sara Feigenholtz (campaign, Wikipedia) is a state representative. Her mother was an early female physician in Chicago and her father died when she was young. She linked herself with women's issues by citing her role in getting insurance companies to cover mammograms and birth control. She avoided saying anything controversial, but a number of people complained that she was at best vague about why she wanted to go to Congress and what she'd do when she got there. In response to the Oslo accords question Feigenholtz said, “Israel has a right to protect its borders.”

Victor Forys (campaign) is a physician who is proud to provide health care to the less fortunate. His immigrant father organized a union in a Skokie manufacturing business and his mother also worked in manufacturing. He seems to have a solid grasp of issues and gave perhaps the most articulate answer on how to deal with the abuses of the Bush administration. (Hopefully, the You Tube will be available.) Forys said, “We need to look back to move forward,” and emphasized that, “We are a country of laws.” Forys came off as perhaps too pure for politics when he answered the question on earmarks, “If you have to cut deals to get something done you don't belong in Congress you belong in jail.” Forys also made the point that current immigration laws undocumented workers to engage in “saving and sending instead of spending”. He predicted “a path to citizenship” will lead to many immigrants buying homes.

Tom Geoghegan (campaign, Wikipedia) is a Chicago labor lawyer and author who has gotten significant support from the national blogosphere. Geoghegan has been a successful lawyer, but his communication style seems awkward at first. In his opening statement Geoghegan called for expanding Social Security from a retirement supplement to a full retirement. He called for single-payer health care and taking over insolvent banks instead of having the government loan them money. Geoghegan was most impressive when he showed deeper levels of understanding issues and a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. He diagnosed the financial crisis as there being too much private debt and warned against solutions that increased the amount of private debt. Geoghegan also made the connection between implementing single-payer health care and reducing the cost of manufacturing in the United States. He said that once people accept earmarks as legitimate they are halfway to pay-to-play politics. And he called invading Iraq “a stupid and murderous war.” Geoghegan also rejected the premise of Sweet's question on immigration which presumed the best way to achieve an immigration bill is to work with Republicans. Geoghegan favors building more Democratic support for “path to citizenship” immigration reforms by linking it a minimum wage increase.

Frank Annunzio (773-426-1064) is the nephew of Frank Annunzio, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives 28 years. The younger Annunzio is a Navy veteran who feels we have a crisis in confidence in government. Election reform should return power to the people. He has experience in construction and federal spending which he anticipates will be the nexus of beating the recession. Annunzio drew distinctions with the other Democrat by saying he would vote against the current stimulus bill (although a number of the other candidates had misgivings about the stimulus). Annunzio also came down against “buy American” requirements being part of government spending. Annunzio also split the difference on how to deal with Bush administration abuses on Iraq. He said, “War crimes have been committed,” but we have to look forward to the future.

Charles Wheelan (campaign, Wikipedia) is a University of Chicago academic who is running on economic issues. In response to the question on the Oslo Accords, Wheelan acknowledged the ill will since then and listed a large number of Arab countries where he has been and had contact with the governments. Wheelan came down hard against “buy America” provisions being part of the stimulus bill because they raise the cost of government. Wheelan fears that holding the Bush administration accountable for misconduct pertaining to the Iraq War would be criminalizing the political process. Wheelan spoke against earmarks by saying local projects are best determined by local government. While Wheelan's statements about Oslo sounded moderate he later said that the United States should give Israel military aid until Israel feels “unequivocally secure”. Wheelan's answer on privatizing services at Midway was something of telling both sides what they wanted to hear. Wheelan would support privatization if Mayor Richard M. Daley said it would save money and if Wheelan believed the claims based on the evidence.

Roger Thompson (rt3chicago circled "a" sbcglobal.net) is a realtor who is fed up with corrupt politicians. He predicts that the North Side will revert to when it wasn't so affluent. None of his answers on issues drew hard contrasts with the other candidates.

Jan Donatelli (campaign) is a Navy veteran and Delta pilot who has been active in her union. She's also a mother of six. She became active in politics as a volunteer in the Obama campaign. Donatelli did a nice job balancing an activist's passion for making a difference with a wonk's understanding of issues. She's a skilled communicator. One area where Donatelli drew a contrast was on the immigration question about how to work with Republicans. Donatelli favored more funding for border security as a way of getting Republicans to support a broad immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrant already in the United States. Donatelli supports a “free and independent Palestine.” Donatelli made the strongest point against privatizing Midway when she explained that for-profit management of airports puts safety and profit in zero-sum competition. And as a pilot, she thinks government does better at ensuring safety compliance than companies driven by profit.

Audience members seemed to either think Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (campaign, Wikipedia) performed quite well or poorly. One positive reaction was from a woman in the overflow seating who heard the event, but didn't see it. She said Quigley sounded the best. Another positive review pointed to Quigley making a number of specific points about his accomplishments as a reformer on the Cook County board. Quigley was an Obama delegate. Quigley was also the first candidate to give a district specific answer to what IL-05 will get from the stimulus bill. A number of progressives faulted Quigley on three answers. When asked whether to prosecute criminal behavior of the Bush administration regarding Iraq, Quigley not only favored “moving forward” he chose words that didn't acknowledge the misconduct. Annunzio emphasized “looking forward” but also said, “War crimes have been committed.” Quigley and Wheelan gave the most Bush administration sympathetic answers. Quigley also used the question on whether to increase aid to Israel to segue to taking a belligerent line on Iran, something no other candidate did. In his opening statement Quigley said, “Hamas must recognize the existence of Israel.” Hamas not recognizing Israel is not the source of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Complaints about Hamas not recognizing Israel are the current excuse for Israel not to negotiate in good faith with the elected Palestinian leadership. From these answers, I inferred the Israel lobby has gotten to Quigley.

State Representative John Fritchey (campaign, Wikipedia entry) told about being raised by a mother from Morocco. His parents met when his father was serving in the U.S. Air Force and later divorced. Fritchey emphasized that his entire academic career from grade school to law school was funded by hardship scholarships. After Quigley responded to the question about how the stimulus bill will specifically help the district, Fritchey made the connection that specific schools in the district would get specific improvements. When asked about how to get Republican votes for the stimulus bill Fritchey said Democrats shouldn't “shy from who we are and what we stand for.” Fritchey responded to the question about whether any of the candidates had been approached about being a place holder while Rahm Emanuel is President Obama's chief of staff. Fritchey said he talked to Emanuel and Emanuel expressed interest in running for the seat again. Fritchey said he told Emanuel, "I told him that should I be fortunate enough to run, and should I be fortunate enough to win the seat, I would look forward to campaigning against him." The exchange showed that Fritchey was a big enough player to get Emanuel on the phone; none of the other candidates offered that they talk to Emanuel. In responses to being asked about privatizing Midway Fritchey said privatization was like “selling the furniture to pay the mortgage.”

Carlos Monteagudo (campaign) is a physician specializing in psychiatry. He grew-up in what is now Wrigleyville in a Cuban-American family. The format somewhat favored candidates who were willing to break in and “Carlos” as he seemed to prefer was probably the least aggressive this way. Monteagudo favored a “truth and reconciliation commission” based on the South Africa model to sort out what went wrong during the Bush years. On the issue of whether to give more money to Israel, Monteagudo gave the answer least obsequious to the Israel lobby. He noted that the “existing aid hasn't improve security”. In his opening statement Monteagudo explained that any settlement needs to make Israelis and Palestinians feel psychologically and physically secure.

The hosts asked candidates to address three issues in their opening statements. All candidates support gay marriage. The question on Israel-Palestine was framed as whether the candidates supported the Oslo Accords. With the exception of Donatelli and Monteagudo, none of the candidates included the Palestinian perspective in their response at all. The other question was on single-payer health care. All candidates seemed to support the abstract goal of everyone getting health care some time in the future. My notes are imperfect, but I think Annunzio and Geoghegan were the only ones that support changing to single-payer now, as opposed to some time in the future.

Two Democrats who filed to run did not participate in the forum. Pete Dagher was defending a challenge to his nominating petition. Alderman Patrick O'Connor refused to respond to the invitation (if only to decline it) according to event organizers.

For additional information see Progress Illinois, Prairie State Blue, Capitol Fax Blog, Chicago Sun-Times (Abdon M. Pallasch), WGN-TV(John McCormick and Dan Mihalopoulos), Chicago Public Radio (Tony Arnold), Chicago Tribune (John McCormick and Dan Mihalopoulos) and CLTV. It's also going to be rebroadcast on CAN-TV.

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  • House rules: don't post under "anonymous". Pick a nickname.

    No gratuitous comments about the sex lives of public figures. However, if it is related to performance of officials duties it's fair game.

    And no commenting on people's bodies.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 3:12 PM, February 02, 2009  

  • Cary Capparelli actually declined to come: I don't know if he gave a reason.

    Very nice summary: I didn't take notes myself, and am now regretting. At the time I was just so keyed up that it was coming off it didn't even occur to me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:32 PM, February 02, 2009  

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