Zopp, Harris meet in last-chance Senate clash

  • From left, Tammy Duckworth, Napoleon Harris and Andrea Zopp are Democratic candidates for United States Senate in the 2016 election.

    From left, Tammy Duckworth, Napoleon Harris and Andrea Zopp are Democratic candidates for United States Senate in the 2016 election.

Updated 3/8/2016 9:06 PM

Two Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate clashed over their experiences creating jobs in a debate Tuesday night that served as a late-campaign chance to get their ideas before voters.

Former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp of Chicago and state Sen. Napoleon Harris of Harvey included criticism of U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates for skipping the WTTW debate, a 15-minute exchange on prime-time TV a week before the March 15 vote.

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"I think her unwillingness to come out and talk about the issues in the community and debate these topics is disrespectful," Zopp said.

In a heated exchange over job creation, Zopp pointed to programs she worked with at the Chicago Urban League that she says helped people find jobs and argued Harris didn't have the same experience she did.

"I can talk to real outcomes, real results, real programs we've created," she said.

Harris argued the availability of at least some of those jobs was because of decisions in Springfield where he's a lawmaker, such as a project on the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line.

"By no means did Ms. Zopp and the Urban League place all the jobs on the Red Line," he said.

Harris was asked by moderator Phil Ponce whether he was recruited to the race to split the African American vote with Zopp.

"I think it's a joke," Harris said. "You know, flat-out joke."

The candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for the seat now held by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park. Looking for a second term, Kirk hasn't debated his primary opponent, James Marter of Oswego.


Duckworth said after a debate last month that she'd be focused on talking to voters directly.

And on the presidential race, Zopp said she supported the ongoing primary without listing a favored candidate, perhaps reflecting her opposition to much of the state party's early-campaign rush to back Duckworth.

Asked the same question, Harris mentioned only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his positions on "wage disparity and college affordability."

Duckworth has expressed support for Hillary Clinton.

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