Jim Oberweis used his time during a debate Monday as a platform to pitch himself as the right choice for the GOP's U.S. Senate nomination.
Instead of taking a similar tack, Doug Truax spent much of the debate explaining to voters why Oberweis was the wrong choice.
Oberweis tried to stay on message at the debate organized by the Sun City Community Association of Huntley ahead of the March 18 primary, but Truax's attacks visibly irked the first-term state senator from Sugar Grove, who made faces and sighed heavily at times.
Truax, 43, of Downers Grove, charged that Oberweis was dodging other debate opportunities, agreed with President Obama's foreign policies, and supported high-speed rail development.
Oberweis, 67, said Truax "misrepresented" his positions and was "trying to misstate what I've said."
Both men label themselves as conservatives and agree on many issues, including their disdain for the new federal health care law.
But Truax, a businessman who works in the health insurance field, believes the health care reform law should be repealed, while Oberweis said merely repealing it isn't enough.
"The magic words are repeal and replace," Oberweis said. "Democrats may not like repeal and Republicans may not like replace, but something's got to be done to drive down the cost of health insurance."
Truax said the Affordable Care Act isn't making health care affordable.
"I had a handle on Obamacare from the beginning and knew it wasn't going to work," Truax said. "We need to fix pre-existing condition exclusions, open competition across state lines and that will drive down costs. What we're doing now is just raising premiums and raising deductibles."
Both attacked incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbim, a Springfield Democrat, for supporting the health care law, and both believe that support will be the longtime legislator's biggest obstacle to being re-elected.
"This Obamacare disaster is a huge weight on Democrats across the country," Oberweis said.
While a political newcomer, Truax said he has a better chance to unseat Durbin because Oberweis has been unsuccessful in the past.
"I'm a new face with new ideas that can take it to Durbin," Truax said to the crowd of roughly 50 people.
Though early voting is in full swing throughout the state, including at a polling place within sight of the forum at Sun City, many in the audience Monday said they were waiting for the debate before casting a ballot.
"This was encouraging and built more confidence in the candidate I am going to vote for," said Chester Kumm. "I wanted to feel comfortable with that person."
However, some voters remained undecided.
"Mr. Oberweis has experience, but I think Mr. Truax has a little more understanding of the health industry," said Patricia Wallenberg. "I'm still either way at this point, but I'd like to hear more debates."