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updated: 1/21/2012 6:32 PM

Candidates for 6th, 8th districts square off in Palatine

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Largely agreeing on the issues, candidates for congressional seats in the 6th and 8th districts touted their individual qualifications at a forum Saturday in Palatine in hopes of wooing support.

Eighth District candidates Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who served as assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, a small-business owner and former state deputy treasurer, said they believe in tax reform, affordable health care and setting limits to lobbying.

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In 2006, Duckworth lost her bid for Congress against Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton. Krishnamoorthi lost in the 2010 primary for state comptroller. Both are from Hoffman Estates.

Duckworth, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq, said she's prepared for tough battles in Congress. "My worst day in Washington (...) is never going to be as bad as having an RPG blow up in my lap."

Krishnamoorthi pointed to his 24-page plan to deal with the nation's economic crisis. "I'm on the front lines of this economic crisis every single day, trying to make payrolls, trying to get loans from bankers," he said.

Duckworth advocated creating jobs through public school infrastructure projects and curbing waste within Department of Defense contracts. Krishnamoorthi said he supports investing in local manufacturing and a Metra Star line for the suburbs.

The 8th district includes Carpentersville, Elgin, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and Roselle and stretches south past Addison to Lombard. The winner of the primary will face Republican incumbent Joe Walsh in the November election.

Sixth District candidates Leslie Coolidge of Barrington Hills, Geoffrey Petzel of Lake Zurich, and Maureen Yates of Barrington also squared off at the forum. Candidate Tim Ritter of Cary was not in attendance.

The district includes the southeast corner of McHenry County, the Barrington area, Inverness, Palatine, West Chicago, Wheaton and Downers Grove. The Democratic nominee will face incumbent Roskam.

Yates, a native of England, is a former flower arranger-turned-wedding planner with three decades of experience on nonprofit boards. "Dealing with an anxious bride is a bit like dealing with Congress," she said.

Yates said she felt compelled to forsake retirement for politics. "I cannot sit quiet and watch what's going on with the destruction of our democracy," said Yates, who pledged to look out for the needs of the elderly.

Petzel, also a small-business owner, said Congress needs to look out for average people. "We need to create opportunities for people who believe in the American dream," he said.

When he suffered a heart attack six months ago, Peztel said, he nearly fatally delayed going to the hospital because he had fallen behind in insurance payments. "People should not be faced with a decision between life-saving medical decisions and a mountain of debt," said Petzel, who supports single-payer health care with the government paying health-related bills for people.

Coolidge said her work as a certified public accountant for Fortune 500 companies means she can closely examine the numbers behind proposed legislation. She said it doesn't take much to go from being part of the middle class to being homeless. "We may think that where we live, in relatively prosperous suburbs, this is not a problem, but it absolutely is," said Coolidge, who added the environment is her personal passion.

All five candidates support overturning the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that unions and corporation can spend unlimited amounts in politics -- the so-called Citizens United decision -- but Coolidge was the only one who said a constitutional amendment should be only used as a measure of last resort.

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