US Senate Race for Illinois - 2004

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Republican Candidates
Alan Keyes
Jack Ryan
John Borling
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria
Andy McKenna
Jim Oberweis
Steven Rauschenberger
Jonathan Wright
Antonio Davis-Fairman
John Cox
Patrick O'Malley
Jim Durkin

Democratic Candidates
Barack Obama
Gery Chico
Blair Hull
Estella Johnson-Hunt
Dan Hynes
Maria Pappas
Nancy Skinner
Joyce Washington
Frank Avila
Matt O'Shea
John Simmons

Color Codes:
Black - Potential Candidate
Green - Active Candidate
Red - Lost
Orange - Candidate has dropped out or is not running




by Jeremiah Calvino

On July 13, the IVI-IPO sponsored a Senate forum at the Harold Washington library in downtown Chicago. 

Nine of the candidates were present.  Six Democrats (Blair Hull, Gery Chico, Barack Obama, Matt O'Shea, Vic Roberts, Joyce Washington) and three Republicans (John Cox, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, James Oberweis) were in attendance.  Of note, the two perceived front runners Dan Hynes (D) and Jack Ryan (R) did not appear at the forum.

Laura Washington (who has raved about State Sen. Obama), moderated the forum.

Each candidate started with an opening statement, which set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.


Gery Chico, mentioned his career with Dailey and harped on his education record.  Saying that the work had been started, but there was more work to be done.

John Cox, regaled us with the facts that he has "worked hard," had "humble beginnings," and has "given back to the community."  He went on to say that he would be a reformer getting rid of "cronyism and corruption."

Blair Hull, stated that "Washington is broken," politicians are not standing up for the people, and he would not be swayed by special interests.  His primary issue, jobs, was mentioned early on, "unemployment is at the highest level in nine years, yet all Bush is doing is giving tax cuts to the wealthy."

Dr. Kathuria, played on the American Dream angle.  Though he is quite distinguished looking, he was able to create companies worth more than one billion dollars, and that was only because of the freedom in America.  He went on to end with a famous quotation, which is becoming a habit of his.  Robert Frost, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep."

Barack Obama, was very cordial, thanking IVI-IPO and giving us a history lesson about the organization.  He went on to say that those were the same values that had motivated him throughout his life.  He then sought to separate himself from the rest of the crowd by saying, that he was the only person who had publicly stood up against the Iraq war before the war had started (read his Oct 30, 2002 speech against the war).

Matt O'Shea, argued that the Republican party has left middle America, which is why he, as a downstate mayor left the Republican party to join the Democrats. He believes he could solve problems because he has been an air force veteran, a mayor, and a business man.

Vic Roberts, a retired coal miner speaking in oratorical tones told us that he would represent the laboring class people, because he was one.

Joyce Washington, a health care executive, explained that she went into nursing to help people, and she wants to continue helping people in the Senate by providing everyone with healthcare.


Laura Washington started the discussion by questing Obama on his claim that he was the only to criticize the war. Blair Hull, was quick to respond saying he was against the war, that we have a "cowboy President," and that we need to cooperate with our neighbors. Cox later attacked Hull on this point, saying that just because France and Germany did not go along with the war does not make it unilateral.

Dr. Kathuria, said, "the war was important to remove a dictator." He went on to say we need to look forward to Sudan, Liberia, and N. Korea. He finished saying we need to tell people, "We are not against Muslims, we are against terror."

The candidates where later questioned as to what their first piece of legislation as a Senator would be:
Gery Chico, the TI bill.

Cox, the Peotone airport. Saying, O'Hare is being expanded to line the pockets of the mayors cronies. The south side needs jobs and opportunities. Expanding O'Hare is putting all our eggs in one basket. As he finished Jesse Jackson Jr., who was an had received an award from IVI-IPO clapped.

Hull, said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts, because the deficit was going to drag the economy down.

Kathuria, said he would give everyone healthcare through cash or credit vouchers for private health insurance.

O'Shea, argued that O'Hare expansion would create over 100,000 necessary jobs, and that we should give tax credits to those who work to conserve energy.

Vic Roberts, spoke out against the federal reserve bank, and said we need to publicly finance federal elections.

When asked if they would support same-sex marriages, Democrats Chico, Hull, and Obama all clearly stated yes. However, the phrasing was changed from "marriage" to "civil union." On the Republican side, Oberweis said plainly, " I believe that marriage is between a man and a women." Cox put a different twist on it by bringing up the idea that the Supreme Court should not be legislating, and the issue should be left to the states.

The Candidates were questioned on whether they would outlaw the death penalty. The answers were sometimes surprising.

John Cox said, "God is the only one who can take life." Citing the example of executed Oklahoma City Bomber, Timothy McVeigh, Cox said that Timothy would have had a much harsher penalty by working in hard labor sixty hours a week, than to be executed. He went on to deride prisoner access to basketball, Cable TV, and other prison amenities.

Blair Hull, explained that while he opposes the death penalty, he would not change the law, only ensure that it is fairly and justly applied.

Obama, touted the fact that he was the chief sponsor of a bill requiring all confessions to be videotaped in capitol cases. He is supporting a series of reforms, and a moratorium until the system has been fixed. He specifically cited terrorism as a crime which the death penalty should be available for.

Chico was grilled on the situation of the law firm he works at, Altheimer and Grey.  Chico quickly made the point that the company was not filing for bankruptcy, but that the firm was being dissolved, and that all of their debts would be paid.  He also said the decision had little to do with him, he was "one of three hundred and five lawyers."

A humorous moment was shared between Cox and Obama, after Obama had suggested the Candidates should break into separate debates for each party, Cox quipped, "You are not afraid of us?"  Obama quickly replied, "I'll take you on in the general."

Closing comments

Oberweis made a "no new taxes" pledge.  Obama, again touted his record and the need for 'experience'.  Joyce Washington made the interesting claim that, "No one represents a colored person like a colored person."  This before Bobby Rush switched his support from her to millionaire Blair Hull (read article).

Overall, no real surprises, each candidate stuck to their traditional themes.  Obama, Chico, and Cox probably did the best.  Hull and Dr. Kathuria need to work on presentation.  With nine candidates present, and at least five more in the race (Ryan, Hynes, Skinner, Johnson-Hunt, and McKenna) it is sure to get even more interesting as time progresses.

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Partial Transcript





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Copyright � 2003 Jeremiah Calvino ALL RIGHTS RESERVED