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Kadner: No clear winner in this debate

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. |  Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson. File photo. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 11, 2013 6:45AM



I tried to pick out the best congressional candidate in the 2nd District.

Twelve would eventually appear on a stage (10 Democrats and two Republicans) in a debate at Governors State University on Thursday night, but if one stood out it would have to be Charles Rayburn.

Rayburn alternately provoked jeers and laughter by turning almost every question into an attack on some of the other candidates for failing to show up 15 minutes early as required.

Threatening to walk off the stage, he said there would be “other Super Bowls and other debates,” but he never did leave. He did introduce himself to the audience by taking the oath of office, although I still don’t know what he does for a living or where he lives.

Rayburn and nine other Democrats appeared after the two Republicans had debated for about 20 minutes.

GOP candidate Paul McKinley said the Democrats had controlled the congressional district for 60 years and repeatedly said no federal money should be spent there because Chicago politicians are so corrupt they will probably steal it.

Republican Beverly Reid revealed that she had an abortion after she was physically abused while pregnant and nearly died but said she remained an abortion opponent. Reid said gun violence in Chicago is an epidemic and needs to be addressed as some sort of disease, a sentiment echoed by several Democratic candidates.

Mike Flannery, a longtime TV political reporter, moderated the debate sponsored by GSU and the League of Women Voters. He deserves to be commended for miraculously and mercifully concluding the process in about two hours.

Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much room for extensive analysis of complicated issues by the candidates.

Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter because there wasn’t a lot of collective wisdom in evidence on the stage.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, of Crete, was the only Democrat to raise her hand when asked if there was any candidate who opposed banning assault rifles and limits on magazine sizes to 10 rounds.

She was roundly booed by the crowd, but I give her high marks for noting that while politicians in Illinois are decrying the increase in Chicago homicides, the state has cut funding for mental health care by more than $160 million and Chicago has cut the number of mental health clinics in half.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) seemed to reverse positions held earlier in her career and said she now supports an assault weapons ban along with restrictions on bullet magazines.

Other candidates received cheers and applause as they each denounced guns, violence and the murder of children.

None of them said they opposed the abuse of dogs, but there were time constraints on their answers and at this point dogs are not making front-page news.

On the economy, Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he had created jobs in his ward, lured new businesses to the community and was responsible for building new housing for senior citizens.

The other candidates who have served in public office — such as former state Rep. Robin Kelly, of Matteson, Hutchinson and Halvorson — said they had also done a lot to stimulate economic development, help working people and provide for the poor.

So if you live in the 2nd District and believe that, despite the economic recession, things are pretty good there, vote for one of them.

Democratic candidate Fatimah Muhammed, of Chicago, often seemed confused by Flannery’s questions, particularly when he asked about the use of drones to kill American citizens working with terrorist organizations. She said Americans should be brought back to the U.S. to stand trial, as Flannery tried to explain that the American citizens at issue allegedly were working on behalf of al-Qaida.

And Halvorson seemed to think that Flannery was describing Americans who had accidentally placed themselves between drones and terrorists.

“Sometimes American citizens get in the way, and that’s a sad situation,” she said, indicating she did not comprehend that those targeted for assassination were affiliated with terrorist groups.

Halvorson said the policy of using drones has to change, and Flannery immediately asked her how she would change it.

“Pfft,” Halvorson said, in apparent exasperation. “He’s the commander-in-chief, I’m not the president.”

Candidate Larry Pickens, of Chicago, pounced on that comment, noting that Obama “is the president, but he’s not the king.” Pickens, a Methodist pastor, said there ought to be limitations on the president’s power to kill American citizens, and it’s the responsibility of Congress to review such decisions.

He added that there’s a system of checks and balances in American government, and it’s appropriate for Congress to exert its oversight authority in this instance.

I thought that was a nice lesson for the students in attendance.

Flannery seemed to forget that the candidates represent a very large suburban area and never did ask them about the proposed South Suburban Airport, for which the state has spent millions of dollars acquiring land. Several candidates, notably Anthony Williams, volunteered that they were opposed to the idea.

The entire debate can be seen by going to YouTube and typing “CAN-TV Governors State 2nd Congressional District Debate” in its search engine.

Each of the candidates had a moment when he or she sounded congressional. Each had moments when they did not.

I didn’t see anyone who looked like a clear winner.



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