Friday, December 02, 2005

Bean Challengers Sound Alike At Club's Forum

Cristel Mohrman
Pioneer Press

With the primary election a full four months away, seven 8th Congressional District hopefuls kicked off the campaign season last week at a forum sponsored by the Barrington High School Political Science Club.

Campaign signs peppered the parking lot of the Stonegate Conference Center, where Republicans Ken Arnold, Robert Churchill, Aaron Lincoln, David McSweeney and Kathy Salvi and independent candidate Bill Scheurer shared their views on issues ranging from education to the war in Iraq with an audience of more than 50 high school students, parents and residents. Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean could not attend the forum because of a scheduling mix-up.

The Republicans will face off in the March 21 election. The prevailing candidate will go on to face Bean next November. Scheurer will also compete in that race.

Stay in Iraq

Republican candidates agreed last week that the U.S. should maintain a presence in Iraq until tensions ease.

"I support the efforts there. There will be a time when we will leave the country, but it will be a time when it's a democracy that is hopefully our friend," Churchill said.

Salvi, an attorney from Mundelein, said while she believes Iraqi soldiers should defend their own country, she trusts the U.S. administration to determine the right time for U.S. troops to return home.

Scheurer, a Lindenhurst resident who has a son stationed in Baghdad, took another position.

"We act as if the Iraqis are fighting some strange, mysterious people. What's happening is, Iraqis are fighting Iraqis. It's a civil war that we've gotten ourselves in the midst of. We can't abandon Iraq. We caused a terrible problem there," he said, adding the U.S. should send in people who can mediate and help fix the nation's economy.

When it came to U.S. fiscal policy, Scheurer agreed with the Republicans that spending needs to be cut. While solutions included McSweeney's proposal to cease funding of the National Endowment of the Arts, Salvi's suggestion to cut funding for public broadcasting and Arnold's proposal to save money by standardizing welfare and food stamps programs, Scheurer suggested the most comprehensive reform.

He said he supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, that he would not support transportation spending not directly tied to the interstate system and that wealthy school districts should not receive federal funds.

He also said the funding for the space program should be cut and the money used to research and develop new energy sources.

The Republican candidates agreed either alternative fuels or additional U.S. refineries are necessary to end the nation's dependency on foreign oil.

All of the candidates also shared similar platforms on education, believing reform should be addressed on either a state or local level rather than through the stringent requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. They were unanimous in their agreement that eminent domain should not be used to pursue private or economic development.

Just want Bean out

Some candidates indicated the ultimate goal is to oust Bean from office.

Churchill, a former state representative who lives in Lake Villa, described the upcoming primary as a "family fight."

"I believe that any one of us can do a better job than the person from the other family. No matter who wins, we're going to take Nov. 21 with strength," he said, but added that his experience gives him an edge.

Salvi agreed Bean should be defeated, but said that among the challengers she has the advantage as a female candidate.

"This is our best chance to win this seat back, while Melissa Bean is a freshman congresswoman," Lincoln, an attorney from Wauconda, said. "The House of Representatives may change hands if things don't turn around."

McSweeney, an investment banker from Barrington Hills, said the race will be about the issues. He said Bean has established a liberal voting record and criticized her positions on energy and medical malpractice.

Republican hopeful Teresa Bartels attended only the first few minutes of the forum before leaving for another speaking engagement.

In her opening statement she said she would be a listener and a leader if elected to Congress.

A self-described "independent conservative," she said she supports a simplified tax code and providing the armed forces with tools to fight the war on terror.

Brent Frey, a Barrington High School senior and Political Science Club member who coordinated last week's event, said students started with a list of about 60 possible topics for the candidates to address.

"We whittled it down to what we felt will be the most important issues," he said.

Diversity in opinion was also important to the students, which led them to include a candidate whose name won't appear on the ballot until next November.

"I wanted to create something that was more than just a Republican event, that's why we invited Mr. Scheurer," Paul Ruiz, senior and Political Science Club president, said.

The students said they will continue to follow the 8th Congressional race as well as others in the Barrington area.


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