There really wasn't much disagreement between candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the 25th state Senate district at a Batavia forum Thursday night that was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond pointed out he and opponent Jim Oberweis agree on many issues, such as pension reform and term limits for legislators. The difference, he said, was that as a township supervisor, he has experience running a government on a balanced budget -- with no debt.
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Oberweis touted his business experience, founding Oberweis Asset Management, then buying the family business, Oberweis Dairy.
"I understand what businessmen are looking for to create jobs in Illinois," Oberweis said. "It would make sense to send an experienced businessman to Springfield."
The forum, featuring both Republicans and Democrats, was organized by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County. It was televised live on Batavia public access television and on its website, batv.us.
The third candidate for the Republican nomination, Richard Slocum of Sugar Grove, did not attend.
Richmond and Democrats Steven Hunter of Geneva and District 303 school board member Corinne Pierog of St. Charles decried the proposed cuts to services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
"If we continue cutting to the quick, people will be left to their own devices and those devices are not adequate," Pierog said.
Richmond agreed with Pierog.
"To think the governor is trying to balance the budget and cut programs to the most vulnerable populations of our state is terribly wrong," Richmond said.
But Oberweis said the state is in such dire straits financially due to previous poor decisions that it can't afford even "good things." He compared it to a time when he lost his net worth in a stock-market crash, and he had to tell his children that there would be no new cars or vacation to Walt Disney World that year.
Richmond and Oberweis, who lives in Sugar Grove, both favor eight-year term limits for legislators, with Oberweis saying the Founding Fathers intended the country to have citizen-legislators, "not career politicians."
The Democrats disagreed.
"I believe voters have the right to make up their own mind (about an official)," Hunter said.
"You would have no intellectual capacity or intellectual history," Pierog said, if legislators were limited. "It is the responsibility of our voters to have an engaged interest in who they are voting for, and if you don't like the bum, vote him out and get somebody else in."
People in the audience -- which included candidates' spouses and supporters -- also asked candidates if they supported school vouchers, right-to-work laws, red-light cameras and housing terrorists in Illinois prisons.
They split again by party on school vouchers, with Oberweis and Richmond favoring them. Hunter said that giving people vouchers to pay for private schooling "would destroy the public school system in this country." But Oberweis said "merit pay (for teachers) and opportunity scholarships are two of the best ideas to turn around the educational mess we have in some school districts." Richmond believes the resulting competition would improve public schools.
The 25th Senate district includes all or parts of Elgin, South Elgin, Bartlett, Wayne, West Chicago, Geneva, St. Charles, Batavia, North Aurora, Aurora, Montgomery, Yorkville, Oswego, Plano, Naperville and Warrenville.