PEORIA -- Seven candidates for Lt. Governor in Illinois appeared at a Jan. 30 event sponsored by the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters and the Institute for Principled Leadership at Bradley University.
The Illinois Lt. Gov. candidates run independently. A Democrat and a Republican will be nominated in the primary election Feb. 2, and will then run on a slate with the gubernatorial nominees.
The Peoria forum, unique in Illinois, won praise from the candidates who said they enjoyed hearing their opponents from the other party as well as their competitors. The two hour event attracted an audience of about 35 people, which the candidates said was a very good showing for their race.
Though all were personable, articulate and charming, one of the most interesting candidates was Ricky Hendon, 56, of Chicago, an assistant majority leader in the state senate. Democrat Hendon minced no words in attacking the "stupid wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan for draining the state and nation of money.
Hendon, who arrived nearly a half-hour late, said he succeeded in killing a measure in the General Assembly to allow annoying traffic tickets from cameras. Of Democrat and Illinois House majority leader Mike Madigan, said to be the most powerful politician in the state, Hendon said, "I can work with Madigan but I'm not going to bow down when he's wrong."
He said "the speaker (Madigan) owns" other candidates. "I'm independent."
Hendon gave out his cell phone number and e-mail address and said he always responds.
Democrat Thomas Castillo, 33, of Elmhurst, an electrician with no political experience but plenty of savvy, said "Madigan is the biggest problem in Illinois...People are scared of him. I have a history of bringing people together, from the 9/12 movement to tea party forums. I have been asked to run as a Republican."
Castillo said his website has links to all the Lt. Gov. candidates of all parties.
The candidates agreed that the Feb. 2 primary is too early in the year, and suggested it be moved forward next time to better weather, with some suggesting near Labor Day. Aside from frozen ground, making yard signs difficult, the campaign now is too long and costs too much, they agreed.
They disagreed on whether term limits should be enacted. Some said the voters should enact term limits on the candidates, while others said term limits mean new office holders are inexperienced and their staffs and lobbyists take over.
All expressed support for the Fair Map Amendment, a plan to redistrict the state after the US Census using an independent agency. The League and other groups are currently circulating petitions to get this on the November ballot.
Democrat Mike Boland, 67, of East Moline, said "Iowa has a great system" for redistricting. He also suggested that the Illinois River Coordinating Council, traditionally headed by the Lt. Gov., be expanded to include the Mississippi and other rivers in Illinois.
Asked how to solve the financial problems in Illinois, Democrat Art Turner, 59, of Chicago, said the Illinois deficit, of $11 billion to $13 billion must be dealt with. "There's no way to get around a tax increase and cuts in state government. We need a progressive income tax," he said. Hendon agreed.
The three Repubicans disagreed, with Jason Plummer, 27, of Edwardsville, commenting that Hendon "doesn't know what he's talking about," in supporting a progressive income tax.
"The economy of Illinois has been tanking for a decade, he said. "We're losing jobs. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. We need an environment for business to operate. It's not about increased gambling or increased taxes."
Brad Cole, 38, the mayor of Carbondale, said his city's budget is balanced. "We have a spending problem. You can't borrow your way out of debt."
Don Tracy, 59, of Springfield, a businessman and attorney, said Illinois has not had a "competent and honest" governor in the last 12 years. (Gov.) Quinn is in over his head. He's an honest bumbler." He suggested co-pays for Medicaid as well as managed care to cut costs.
Those who were invited but did not attend included Republicans Randy White, 52 of Hamilton; Matt Murphy, 39 of Palatine; and Dennis Cook, 31, of Orland Park. Democrats were Scott Lee Cohen, 43, of Chicago, and Terry Link, 62, of Waukegan.
The Green Party candidate is Don Crawford, 54, of St. Elmo. He does not have an opponent in the primary.
-- Elaine Hopkins