Attention at a 6th Congressional District voter forum focused on the candidate who wasn't there Thursday.
Democrats Leslie Coolidge and Geoff Petzel both took swipes at Republican Congressman and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam saying he was out of touch with his constituents before a crowd of about 60 in Glen Ellyn.
"What's wrong with our system is that politicians don't work for us, they work for themselves," said Petzel, a Lake Zurich resident who is executive director of Friends of the Fox River.
He criticized Roskam for voting "against transportation funding for the district." Roskam in February supported transportation funding legislation that mass transit agencies, including Metra, said would have meant losing millions of dollars. Roskam, a Wheaton attorney, has asserted that the agencies would still have been funded.
Coolidge, a Barrington Hills accountant, took Roskam to task on the issue of contraception. "I think he is in real trouble over that issue," she said. Voters think Roskam "is out of whack with the district on this particular issue," Coolidge added.
Roskam is a co-sponsor of legislation that tackles President Barack Obama's health care plan by allowing employers to deny coverage of items, such as contraception, if it's against their religious or moral convictions.
Democrats Maureen Yates, a Barrington businesswoman, Coolidge and Petzel are running in the upcoming March 20 primary. Independent Khizar Jafri, a Wheaton traffic analyst, also attended the forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Wheaton and Glen Ellyn.
Asked about immigration, Coolidge and Petzel both said they supported the Dream Act, which offers illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
"We need to have a mechanism for the people who are here illegally to become legal, but the one exception to that I would put forth is if people commit crimes, they should be deported, Coolidge said."
Petzel said he wanted to reverse the trend of foreign students obtaining graduate degrees from American universities, then returning home. "We should encourage those people to stay here not to ship (that) brain power back overseas," he said.
One audience member asked about climate change.
"Global warming and climate change are absolutely real," Petzel said. "The federal government needs to spend more on solar power and wind power and we need to expand the renewable energy tax credit."
Coolidge contended, "To say climate change is not real means you don't believe in science and we absolutely need to believe in science." She said it's essential to develop a comprehensive energy policy that looks at reducing consumption and alternative fuels.
Jafri said he deserved to be elected because as an independent, he is truly bipartisan. "I do not claim allegiance to any particular party. I'm bound to no one," he said.
The 6th Congressional District includes portions of south Lake County, southeast McHenry County, east Kane County, northwest Cook and DuPage County. Towns include Lake Zurich, Cary, Algonquin, West Dundee, South Elgin, West Chicago, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, and Lisle.