One candidate in the 8th District Democratic primary says defense cuts are a necessity for paring down the nation's debt, pointing to items ranging from steak-and-lobster military dinners to F-35 fighter jets.
The other says the nation "cannot cut its way to prosperity" and calls investing in job growth the number one priority.
Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran from Hoffman Estates, says she saw firsthand "waste on a level a lot of other members of Congress would not have seen."
That "waste," she said, include Friday-night steak and lobster dinners for active-duty soldiers in Iraq, for which she said a food service vendor was paid about $38 per meal.
"I just thought, how ridiculous," she said.
Her opponent, Hoffman Estates executive Raja Krishnamoorthi, applauds suggestions made by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission and "Gang of Six," which recommend both spending cuts and revenue increases. But cutbacks should not come at the cost of jobs, he said.
"Right now unemployment is 8.5 percent nationally. You have to make sure that comes down first," he said.
He favors "winding down the war in Afghanistan" and investing the savings to renew the economy.
Duckworth also says Congress should consider eliminating the $385-billion dollar fleet of F-35 fighter jets, currently being developed.
"Let's look at (that) and cut some of that so we can afford job retraining programs so veterans and others out of work can find jobs and get the retraining (they need)," she said.
Krishnamoorthi, former Illinois deputy treasurer, points to his opponent's ties to top-level Democrats as former Veteran's Affairs assistant secretary in the Obama administration, and says if elected, he would not "be tied to an ideological agenda."
He says members of Congress should not get paid if they can't come to a budget agreement and bills go unpaid. He believes they should see their pay cut if the country suffers a double-dip recession.
The 8th Congressional District, roughly centered in Schaumburg, stretches from Elmhurst to Elgin and includes parts of Kane, Cook and DuPage counties. The winner of the March 20 primary will oppose Congressman Joe Walsh in the Nov. 6 general election.