The deaths of diplomats in Libya and America's relationship with Israel are among key foreign policy issues where the two 6th Congressional District candidates take opposing views. Yet they share concerns about a potential trade war with China.
Incumbent Republican Congressman Peter Roskam faces a challenge from Democrat Leslie Coolidge in Tuesday's election.
Coolidge, a Harvard-educated accountant from Barrington Hills, said she was confident President Obama would fully investigate the circumstances behind the killings of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
Republicans have criticized the White House for conflicting reports on the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate but "I believe that we should understand the facts behind what occurred and react accordingly," Coolidge said. "To the extent that this lamentable incident highlights a need for additional security for our diplomatic staff, it will be incumbent on Congress to provide the necessary funding."
Roskam, a Wheaton attorney who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, called the White House response "troubling."
"Why was security in Libya scaled back despite intelligence reports that extremist groups were gaining strength in the region and executing attacks in the lead up to Sept. 11th?" Roskam asked. "Why were embassy requests for greater security refused? Were there any special security measures put in place for the anniversary of Sept. 11th (2001)?"
He added that, "too much is still unknown about why four Americans were killed and what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. The American people deserve answers on what happened, so we can fully understand if this deadly attack occurred because of gross incompetence or worse."
Coolidge, 53, noted it was encouraging Libyans condemned the bloodshed and called the Obama administration's involvement in ousting dictator Moammar Gadhafi "a brilliant example of foreign policy. The United States did not send troops ... we supported and provided air cover but we leaned on our allies to do something."
Another hot topic where the two rivals disagree is America's relationship with Israel.
Roskam, 51, said the Obama administration had overseen "an era of almost unprecedented tension between the United States and Israel, our most vital ally in the region."
"President Obama has sought to put 'daylight' between the United States and Israel; and while Obama focuses on pushing away Israel, the peace process has stalled and Middle East unrest is growing," Roskam noted.
He referred to Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to "wipe Israel off the map," saying the nation was a state sponsor of terror and pursuing nuclear weapons.
With such concerns, "there is no benefit in putting distance between the United States and Israel. We must stand with our closest ally, and hold Israel up as a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East," Roskam said.
Coolidge said talk of U.S.-Israel tension was exaggerated.
"I know some of the very pro-Israeli groups in the Chicago area talk about (Obama) being one of the best presidents we've had from an Israeli perspective because he is providing security ... he is helping them. The issue you have is -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very right wing and where he stands may not be completely aligned with President Obama. But overall, the U.S. is still a very strong friend of Israel and I think most people actually believe President Obama has been very supportive of Israel," she noted.
Coolidge and Roskam both agreed the trade relationship with China is problematic.
"Regarding China, we should not let them be an economic bully," Coolidge said. "We should use our negotiating power as one of their best customers to move China toward a fairer approach to trade and monetary policy (allowing their currency to move with the market, for example) and a more enlightened attitude toward human rights and the environment."
Roskam said China's trade barriers and protectionist policies along with its disregard of intellectual property rights had created an uneven playing field. He said he recently assisted a local company being harmed by a Chinese business' fraudulent practices.
"As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles trade issues, I know firsthand the need to address these issues and work toward resolution," Roskam said. "It is vital that the United States lock arms with our trading partners in an effort to persuade China to stop participating in these unfair trade practices, and we must restart bilateral investment treaty negotiations."
The 6th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.