|Lake County Republican Assembly hosted over 200 voters to a U.S. Senate candidates forum in Gurnee's Village Hall on Tuesday night.|
|Tuesday night's audience included local GOP officials, a state central committeeman, a former candidate for governor and local citizens.|
While there were few surprise answers during the evening's discussion, a straw poll taken at the end of the evening produced results that raised eyebrows among political observers -- a high school teacher won the evening's straw poll and a retired general who has not officially declared his candidacy came in second.
The two top vote-getters accumulated almost half of the straw votes, leaving the other six sharing the remaining votes.
The evening's forum, hosted by the Lake County Republican Assembly, consisted of four millionaire candidates who are officially in the race alongside four others with less personal wealth who haven't declared whether or not they will be Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.
Investor-turned-teacher Jack Ryan, Schwarz Paper Company CEO Andy McKenna, Jr, CPA/attorney John Cox and physician/entrepreneur Chirinjeev Kathuria compared answers with not-yet-declared candidates retired U.S. Air Force General John Borling, Moline-based attorney Ray Choudry, former state lawmaker/RTA chairman Tom McCracken and State Senator Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin).
The only declared GOP candidate to not appear was dairy owner/financial investor Jim Oberweis, who was on a trip to Scotland.
Among the eight Republican candidates who appeared, there was little difference on public policy or political philosophy. They all conveyed varying degrees of conservativeness.
"It was a horse race," one observer said after the forum. "And not one of them broke out of the pack tonight."
The village hall, which provided seating to 175, was full with thirty or more standing around the room.
Each of the candidates was allowed one minute answers to audience questions conveyed through forum moderator and radio personality Hal Coxon.
The candidates sat side-by-side behind the village council desk. Some of the shorter candidates appeared to be uncomfortable peering over the desk to the audience, while the taller ones seemed unaffected by the desk's height.
There were few differences in the GOP candidates' answers.
Every man on the panel supported the war in Iraq, tort reform and school choice.
All said they would not vote to raise taxes if elected as U.S. Senator, and all except one said that they would support cutting taxes. Choudry, a Pakistani immigrant and attorney from Moline said, "I think we're at about the right level for taxes now." Choudry said he was concerned about the mounting federal deficit.
On the topic of abortion, all candidates declared they were "pro-life," except Borling, who said that as a military man he thought of the issue as a woman being like a country considering whether or not it should enter into a war.
"I've spoken to my wife and daughters about this, and I think a woman should have sovereign control over her own body, to make these decisions herself," the 63-year-old former POW said. Borling's comments were met with a faint applause from one portion of the audience.
All except one candidate opposed imposing taxes on internet sales. Rauschenberger said that "brick and mortar" businesses are forced to pay payroll, property and sales taxes, something that is not fairly distributed among traditional businesses and internet stores. Rauschenberger, who has maintained this stand under pressure from conservatives while in the State Senate, told the audience that internet businesses already have some taxes imposed on them.
Overall, the candidates' comments remained polite and congenial throughout the evening. So much so, one candidate said that a comradery and friendship was developing among the competitors for the GOP nomination.
"Let's see how long that lasts," an audience member said as she placed her vote in the straw poll ballot box.
The evening's straw poll results were:
IllinoisLeader.com features specific candidate responses and photos "Lake County Republican Assembly welcomes eight U.S. Senate candidates".
CLARIFICATION added at 7:00 PM 7.30.2003 -- During the question on internet sales taxes, a question arose as to whether Andy McKenna supported an internet sales tax.
His words were, "?For markets to be effective they ought to be fair and we ought to develop a method that does provide a fair way to collect the internet tax and distribute it to those states that are open. The internet is new technology and creates new complexities for us but I think that states should benefit from them which would be a fair way to approach it and technology should rise away to accomplish that.?
McKenna clarified his answer via phone on Wednesday saying, "I do not support any new taxes. I am in support of the federal moratorium on internet sales taxes. Because states give businesses a responsibility to collect sales tax, be it on the internet or otherwise, businesses should not shirk that responsibility and should work to find the means of collecting the taxes the now required by the state."
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