Republican congressional candidates Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh share many of the same ideas about what they want for the residents and businesses of the Northwest suburbs' 8th Congressional District.
But what they want for themselves -- the GOP nomination -- can't be shared.
So the March 18 Republican primary race is shaping up as a comparison not of their takes on the issues but of their personal credentials to be the better candidate to take on Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth in November.
Goel, 48, of Aurora, is a process improvement consultant who said she previously worked for Advocate Health Care. Kaifesh, 46, of Carpentersville, is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who moved back to his native district after leaving his job in Virginia last fall to run.
Though Goel identifies herself as a member of the Indian-American community and a legal immigrant who sought the opportunities of America for her family 27 years ago, Kaifesh claims his endorsement by the local Indian American Republican Organization is proof that Indian-Americans see him as the stronger candidate.
Goel said she smells dirty politics in the endorsement, claiming the organization was created only recently and consists of very few members.
Schaumburg Township Trustee Nimish Jani, who chairs the organization, said Tuesday that it was created last year, it never endorsed in any prior election and it hasn't yet made any other endorsements for the March 18 primary. While not specific about its size, he said the organization has quite a few members and is growing.
"We considered many things," Jani said of the organization's endorsement of Kaifesh. "We had to look at who was capable of winning against Tammy Duckworth. (Kaifesh's) credentials and his awareness of the issues are much better. And he's from the district."
Goel concedes she lives outside the district but said she owns property in the 8th, has worked there and has made most of her professional contacts there. She questions Kaifesh's commitment to the district, noting he owns property in California and the lease on his Carpentersville residence expires 12 days after the primary.
Kaifesh said he's a military man who's moved around a lot and does have condominiums in both Virginia and California. But to fulfill his plan to be back in his hometown for the primary, he had to take the first place he could find.
"My whole family and friends are here," Kaifesh said. "I've been trying to get back here for years."
Kaifesh, in turn, questions Goel's Republican credentials because she pulled Democratic ballots in the 2008 and 2012 primaries. Goel acknowledged as much but said her dedication to conservative financial principles and Reaganomics has been unwavering.
She notes that Ronald Reagan began his political career as a registered Democrat and that she's earned the endorsements of conservative Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Pete Sessions, Aaron Schock and Joe Walsh.
Goel said her strength as a candidate in the 8th District comes from her ability to reach out to members of the community who either never voted or voted for another party. She believes they will see in her a person who shares their priorities.
"It is because of my background and my capacity to bring 20,000 new votes to the district," Goel said.
Kaifesh's endorsements include those of congressmen John Kline and Jim Jordan and, locally, the Republican organizations of Addison, Barrington, Palatine and Schaumburg townships.
While Goel acknowledges and expresses gratitude for Kaifesh's military service, she doesn't believe it automatically earns him a seat in Congress. Kaifesh acknowledges Duckworth's military service in similar terms.
When the conversation turns from themselves, Goel and Kaifesh agree on many of the issues that would face them as members of Congress.
They have strongly negative views of the economic policies of the Obama administration, believe that the Affordable Care Act needs to be replaced at the earliest opportunity, and that term limits are the answer to what they see as the corrupting influence of career politicians.
Even if term limits didn't become the law of the land, both Goel and Kaifesh committed themselves to no more than four terms in office -- or eight years -- if elected.
The 8th District is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes parts of Northwest Cook, eastern Kane and central DuPage counties.