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11 Senate hopefuls focus on Bush, war, skip personal attacks

October 5, 2003

BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter

The five Republicans and six Democrats seeking a U.S. Senate seek presented a vastly different view of the direction the country is heading at a debate Saturday.

Democrats blasted the Bush administration for the war in Iraq, tax cuts and lost jobs. Republicans defended the ouster of Saddam Hussein, praised the No Child Left Behind Act and said the economy was on the mend.

The debate at the WTTW-Channel 11 studios in Chicago, sponsored by the NAACP state convention, was surprisingly free of personal attacks. The candidates are all vying for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who isn't running for re-election. The primary is in March.

Some of the biggest divisions between the candidates came over the war in Iraq.

"This administration had no plan to finish the job,'' Democratic state Comptroller Dan Hynes said. "We are paying the price in terms of lives lost and dollars spent.''

But James Oberweis, an Aurora dairy magnate who failed in his last bid for the Republican nomination for Senate, said the country is "definitely safer today'' following the invasion of Iraq. "We will continue to do the right things and free people in Iraq and Afghanistan,'' he said.

State Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) said many unemployed residents are frustrated with priorities. "Our government seems more intent on rebuilding Iraq than they are rebuilding here at home,'' Obama said.

There was also plenty of friction on the economy, particularly on tax cuts. Republican accountant John Cox said the problem was not tax cuts but deficit spending. He opposes "spending billions'' on an expansion of O'Hare Airport.

Democrat Blair Hull, a former investment banker, criticized the elimination of the estate tax, saying the tax is necessary and fair. "President Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president we have had in the history of our nation,'' Hull said.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle knocked foreign trade policies.

Nancy Skinner, a syndicated radio talk show host, criticized the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost during the Bush administration and said politicians should do more to stop the jobs from going to countries such as China.

Oberweis said it's "high time'' trade is restored with Cuba. Republican businessman Andrew McKenna said he supports NAFTA but blames the United States' trading partners for not living up to the agreement.

Democrat Joyce Washington, a health care executive, criticized Bush's education policies after a question from an audience member who, like Washington, is black.

The "No Child Left Behind [Act] leaves many children behind, particularly ones that look like me and you,'' she said.


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