Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Challengers Turn Out For Public Forum

Nate Legue
Northwest Herald

HOFFMAN ESTATES – The entire field of challengers hoping to knock off Democratic Congresswoman Melissa Bean next year turned out Tuesday for a forum put together by a high school political club.

Facing questions from students, five Republicans and an independent expounded on six topics: fiscal policy, the Iraq war, education, energy, medical malpractice, and eminent domain.

The forum drew about 50 people to a conference room at Stonegate Conference Center and was organized by the Barrington High School Political Science Club.

With the primary race kicking into gear well in advance of the March election, Wauconda lawyer Aaron Lincoln spoke for the Republican hopefuls.

"This is the best, clear chance to win this seat back," Lincoln said.

Other Republicans sounding off at the event included Lake Villa state Rep. Robert Churchill; Barrington Hills investment banker David McSweeney; Mundelein lawyer Kathy Salvi; and Gurnee business consultant Ken Arnold. Republican Mundelein businesswoman Teresa Bartels had to leave for another engagement.

While the Republicans riffed on varying conservative positions, independent Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst criticized the entire two-party electoral system and expressed support for positions traditionally found on opposing ends of the spectrum.

"It would have been boring if we had all Republican candidates with the same platform," said club president Paul Ruiz.

While policy differences were slight on many issues, health-care reform brought out some contrasts. Scheurer called for comprehensive health care for everyone, while ultra-conservative Arnold, a benefits consultant, questioned whether damage caps would help the health insurance system.

"Medical malpractice is a crutch for many a politician who doesn't know the field," said Arnold, and insisted that providing consumers with information about doctors, procedures and mortality rates would bring free-market principles and lower costs to the health care system.

Even trial lawyer Salvi came out for caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice cases and said she would have voted in favor of a recent tort reform bill.

McSweeney repeatedly called out Bean on some of her congressional votes -- on tort reform, on energy policy. His strategy has been to highlight his conservative policy differences with the moderate Bean.

His rhetoric resonated with political-club member Neil Panchal.

"McSweeney was probably the best one," said Panchal of Barrington Hills. "He answered the questions directly and to the point."

But Panchal's endorsement won't do McSweeney much good -- the 17-year-old student won't be able to vote next year. Churchill said there were other reasons for appearing at the student-led forum.

"When I was their age, I was doing what they're doing," Churchill said. "Now I'm in the state legislature running for Congress. One day, one of these kids will do the same thing."


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