Roskam, challenger Casten call for debates in 6th District race

Both candidates in what's expected to be a race with national implications in Illinois' 6th Congressional District say they're willing to meet for debates on issues such as environmental regulations, taxes, health care, women's rights and gun control.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton said he reached out Wednesday to Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove after seeing that Casten claimed a narrow victory in a seven-way primary to become his opponent.

"I've called on my opponent to debate me in four settings," Roskam said, listing the editorial boards of the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune as well as WGN radio and WTTW-TV as his selected venues. "I hope he accepts the invitation."

Casten said he welcomes the opportunity.

"I am totally flattered that for the first time in almost 10 years, Roskam would like to come out and meet with people," Casten said, referring to a complaint among some constituents that the 11-year incumbent holds "tele-town halls" by phone instead of public, in-person events with opportunities for follow-up questions. "So yeah, let's have a debate. Let's have it not in a scripted media environment. Let's have it with constituents in the room - real people who are trying to figure out who they want to represent them."

The candidates in what's expected to be one of the hottest and most expensive races in the state already are trying to frame the debate to fit their strengths.

Roskam, one of the architects of the Republican tax law, said the legislation - with its doubling of the child tax credit and its temporary lower tax rates for middle-income earners - means relief for many in the district. He said the median-income family of four making $135,000 a year stands to save $4,000.

"I think there's two very different views of the economy that are going to be on display," Roskam said. "I have confidence the district will choose the one I have advocated for, and that is to bring tax relief to the families of the 6th District."

Casten said the tax plan is a "massive wealth transfer from the middle-class to corporations and the wealthy."

"There is absolutely room in this world for a tax policy that incentivizes growth, that incentivizes job creation, that does all the things that affect not just the wealthiest but the whole economy," he said. "We can design a tax code that does that. Slashing corporate tax rates isn't the way."

Promoting his career leading companies in the clean energy industry, Casten said he wants to turn the focus to climate change.

He said it's "morally objectionable" that Roskam, in a 2006 debate covered by the College of DuPage Chronicle, called climate change "junk science."

"We're going to have a conversation about why he thinks climate change is a hoax," Casten said.

Roskam, meanwhile, said voters seek "balance" to protect the environment without overburdening the economy with too much regulation. He said he has criticized some of President Donald Trump's stances on environmental issues and stood up to ensure money was provided for a Great Lakes cleanup fund.

While Roskam has won election to his seat six times since 2006, Democrats believe he may be vulnerable and are trying to flip the district in their favor.

Kelly Mazeski, who finished second to Casten in the Democratic primary, released a statement Wednesday saying she's supporting his candidacy, and the remaining primary candidates - Carole Cheney, Amanda Howland, Ryan Huffman, Becky Anderson Wilkins and Jennifer Zordani - pledged to do the same.

Casten said he respects all of his earlier opponents and looks forward to their support as he prepares to face Roskam on Nov. 6.

"If we are going to have a legislature that acts as a check and balance on a completely unhinged executive, we are going to have to flip a large number of congressional districts," he said. "And if we can't flip this one, we cannot flip the House."

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Casten edges Mazeski in 6th Congressional Dist., heads to battle with Roskam

  U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton is offering to debate Democratic challenger Sean Casten of Downers Grove four times before the November election. Steve Lundy/ 2018
  Sean Casten, left, of Downers Grove, chats with supporters Wednesday after he won a seven-way Democratic primary in the 6th U.S. Congressional District. Bev Horne/
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