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updated: 1/15/2014 11:04 PM

50th House GOP debate features 2 of 4 candidates

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  • Rick Olson of Montgomery listens to Bill Keck of Sugar Grove and Keith Wheeler of Oswego engage in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans on Wednesday in Aurora.

       Rick Olson of Montgomery listens to Bill Keck of Sugar Grove and Keith Wheeler of Oswego engage in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans on Wednesday in Aurora.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both seek the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary.

       Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both seek the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Laura Stoecker/lstoecker@dailyherald.comKeith Wheeler of Oswego talks with voters prior to a debate with Bill Keck of Sugar Grove hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both are seeking the nomination for the 50th House seat in the April primary.

      Laura Stoecker/lstoecker@dailyherald.comKeith Wheeler of Oswego talks with voters prior to a debate with Bill Keck of Sugar Grove hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both are seeking the nomination for the 50th House seat in the April primary.

  • Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both seek the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary.

       Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Both seek the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, center, talks with Jon Zahm, left, of Osco and Dave Richmond, of Yorkville, prior to a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Keck seeks the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary. Zahm is a political consultant; Richmond is the former supervisor of Blackberry Township, before moving to Yorkville.

       Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, center, talks with Jon Zahm, left, of Osco and Dave Richmond, of Yorkville, prior to a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans at the Orchard Valley Restaurant in Aurora on Wednesday. Keck seeks the nomination for the 50th House seat in the March primary. Zahm is a political consultant; Richmond is the former supervisor of Blackberry Township, before moving to Yorkville.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans in Aurora.

       Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans in Aurora.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans in Aurora.

       Bill Keck of Sugar Grove, left, and Keith Wheeler of Oswego join in a debate hosted by the Kane County Young Republicans in Aurora.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

A debate featuring the Republicans seeking to be the next 50th state House representative was a low-key affair Wednesday.

Two of the four candidates did not attend. Beth Goncher of Geneva had a scheduling conflict, and Julie Cosimo of Yorkville was at home recuperating from surgery for a broken leg, said Tim Stoll, chairman of the Kane County Young Republicans. The organization sponsored the debate at the Orchard Valley Country Club in Aurora.

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That left Bill Keck of Sugar Grove and Keith Wheeler of Oswego to answer questions.

And they agreed on just about everything.

• Both dissed red-light camera systems, with Keck stressing he thought towns installed them mostly to make money and Wheeler saying they intruded on personal freedom and hadn't produced increases in safety as promised.

• Keck said "loopholes" in the state's public-employee pension laws, including the recently adopted reform, need to be addressed. Wheeler said the "clearest path to a solution" to the pension crisis is to change the pensions to defined-contribution programs.

• Wheeler said he favors charter schools, home schooling and vouchers to attend private schools as ways to provide competition to public schools that would make them better. Keck said he would favor charter schools in Chicago, but that the 50th District had "pretty good" school districts.

They differed on the topic of tax incentives for specific businesses to move to or stay in Illinois, such as those suggested for or given to Archer Daniels Midland, Caterpillar, Office Depot and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

"I'm a fan of eliminating special-treatment situations. Just the whole process of having one business be eligible for tax credits gives the feeling that" Illinois is corrupt and continuing to use "pay to play" via campaign contributions, Wheeler said. "Having to have such a program tells us there are things massively wrong with our state, and we need to look at it to see how we can be competitive with other states."

Asked about how they would be effective, as the Republicans are in the minority in the legislature, Wheeler said he wants to form a bipartisan small-business caucus. "We are going to have to bring some Democrats in to our line of thinking to accomplish virtually anything," he said.

Keck said that he would try to persuade Democrats "to be with us to get our debt more under control.

"But not the Chicago group. I don't think we are going to be effective there."

Wheeler cited his four-point platform, which includes fighting the proposed progressive income tax, having a forensic audit of state spending and restoring promised state funding to school districts. Keck, in closing, said he would lean heavily on the reports of the auditor general to review state spending.

Keck is the former Kane County auditor, having stepped down in 2012 after 20 years.

Wheeler ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the 50th District in 2010. He lost, in a three-way race, to incumbent Kay Hatcher.

Goncher was the longtime district director for 65th District state Rep. Tim Schmitz. Cosimo is director of career development at Benedictine University. Wheeler owns an information-technology service company and is a partner in an excavation company.

Hatcher is not seeking re-election.

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