GOP rivals in 14th Congressional race fend off questions about weaknesses
Will County Republicans peppered the seven candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the 14th Congressional District with questions about potential weak points of their qualifications this week during a forum in Bolingbrook.
A video released of the Republican-sponsored event shows state Sens. Jim Oberweis and Sue Rezin dueling over their votes on the "Rebuild Illinois" capital spending bill last summer.
The $45 billion spending plan doubled the state's gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents per gallon. It also locked in future increases in the gas tax per inflation.
Rezin, who is from Morris, voted in favor of the spending bill. Oberweis, who lives in Sugar Grove, voted "present."
The dairy magnate did not explain why he voted "present" instead of "no."
"I have never voted for any tax increase whatsoever," Oberweis said. "I have no intention of voting for any tax increases unless there is an offsetting decrease in a different tax."
He also took a swipe at Rezin for supporting a bag tax increase in committee. Rezin responded that Oberweis' only answer for how to pay for things is "handing out Oberweis ice cream coupons."
She said she voted "yes" because she deemed the spending plan a "reasonable measure" to address infrastructure projects that wouldn't otherwise happen. As one example, she cited the need to update a township road in Oswego that handles traffic for six schools.
"A township cannot pay for that," Rezin said. "It is important that we have capital bills for huge infrastructure updates."
Ted Gradel of Naperville faced a question about his involvement with the U.S. Stem Cell Clinic. The Florida-based company lost a federal lawsuit initiated by the Food and Drug Administration that accused the business of using unapproved stem cell treatments that caused three patients to lose their eyesight.
Gradel was an investor in the company and listed as its co-owner and managing officer.
Gradel said he invested in the company after finding success in using his own stem cells to treat pain in his joints. He said he is no longer involved with the company.
"They ran into some problems treating patients," Gradel said. "I never had any involvement in health care decisions. The clinic is in Florida. I've never lived in Florida. There's hundreds of companies I've invested in. I do my best to learn each time and move on."
Woodstock resident Catalina Lauf was asked about her history of having multiple jobs within the last five years. They range from a job in the Trump administration to work on former Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign to time at Uber.
Lauf said she's proud of possibly becoming the youngest member of Congress at 26.
"I view youth in this race as a huge advantage," she said. "I'm the only candidate here who has received national media attention. That's because I'm not afraid to fight on a national level for our conservative values. I had trouble finding my calling. When there are women out there that are talking about socialism, I have found my calling, and it's to be their counterpunch."
Candidates Anthony Catella of St. Charles, Jerry Evans of Warrenville and James Marter of Oswego faced questions about their comparatively low fundraising numbers.
Catella said he's received one $25 donation. All other money comes from him. He said that means he's a "citizen politician" who doesn't owe anything to anyone.
"I'm not saying I'm going to pay any price to win," Catella said. "Why am I doing this? Because I care."
Evans said he's proud of the $45,000 he raised in the nine weeks after his entry into the race.
"We're looking forward to raising the money to go ahead and win this primary," Evans said. "I didn't run to run. I ran to win and live a life of self-sacrifice, the same way that Jesus did. We believe this is going to happen."
Marter said the big dollars will flow in once he wins the primary.
"I will have the support of the House Freedom Caucus," Marter said.
"I will have the support of the Club for Growth. I will be out there, outraising anyone else who's in the race. President (Donald) Trump will be on board with us. We're going to get him to the district."
The winner of the March 17 Republican primary will face Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood of Naperville in the November general election.
The sprawling 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.