With 12 days before the March 20 primary, Democratic Congressional candidates Leslie Coolidge and Geoffrey Petzel sought support from potential voters in Glen Ellyn during a League of Women Voters sponsored forum Thursday night.
Coolidge and Petzel, along with Khizar Jafri, a 25-year-old from Wheaton who is running as an indepenent, fielded questions from the audience ranging from health care, taxes to term limits and bringing unity to a highly partisan House.
Each candidate said they supported President Barack Obama’s health care reforms passed by Congress in 2010, although each recognized flaws in the bill. Petzel, who supports the universal health care plan, got into the race after suffering a heart attack after dropping his health insurance due to mounting costs. While lauding insurance companies for providing insurance to 30 million Americans, Petzel criticized the high costs associated with the health plan.
Coolidge also criticized the costs with the plan, but said she would implement the changes now rather than in 2014 so people would “see the benefits.”
Jafri said the bill is a good start, but wants to see subsidies for small business so owners can afford insurance for their employees.
With partisan fever at a high in this election year, each of the candidates said they would be willing to work across the political aisle to restore bi-partisanship.
However, the candidates were split over term limits. Petzel said politicians should not serve extended amounts of time in office because they lose an understanding of issues important to the average people.
Jafri said he did not support term limits, but said he would call for lowering the salary for a Congressman.
Coolidge said she opposed term limits because she wanted to maintain the voter’s ability to choose their representatives. Implementing public financing of campaigns would create a more even playing field, she said.
Citizens United, budget
All three candidates said they opposed Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that equated money with free speech. They said they supported some form of public financing of elections.
All three supported cutting the federal defense budget in order to use the funds for other critical needs.
Jafri and Petzel said they would reduce the federal corporate tax rate, close any loopholes and allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.
Coolidge said she supports a progressive tax code and called for wealthier individuals to pay more income taxes, regardless of how the money is earned.
Each candidate also supported increased federal support for alternative energy.
Incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, and Democrat Maureen Yates did not attend the forum. Roskam is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Jafri does not have an opponent in the primary, but he will have to secure 5,000 signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Following redistricting in 2011, the 6th Congressional District lost part of DuPage County and picked up portions of Lake, McHenry and Cook County. Despite the new boundaires, the district is thought to remain largely in Roskam’s favor, although Petzel argued the new district is evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independent voters. He said it’s a "winnable" district for a challenger, especially in an anti-incumbent climate.
Coolidge said many of the voters new to Roskam are disenchanted with their current Congressman, Joe Walsh. She said voters who are unhappy with Walsh will likely oppose Roskam’s similar voting record.
Each candidate also acknowledged they will be outspent by incumbent Roskam in the primary. Coolidge said she did not know how much it would cost to mount a successful challenge, but Petzel said it would take a minimum of $2 million. A more optimistic Jafri said he could mount a strong campaign spending between $5,000 and $10,000 per month.