MOLINE -- Many pointed political barbs -- common in this fall's never-ending TV commercials -- flew in person on Sunday as several candidates for county, state and federal office debated before a packed audience at the Black Hawk College Hawk's Nest.
The loudest responses from the crowd came in tense back-and-forth discussions between U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, and his Democratic opponent, Cheri Bustos, of East Moline, and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and his GOP rival, former U.S. Secret Service agent Bill Albracht. The two-and-a-half-hour candidate forum was sponsored by the Greater Quad-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which compiled the questions with BHC students.
Ms. Bustos (a former journalist, Iowa Health System executive, and East Moline alderwoman) said the first-term Congressman is part of the "most dysfunctional Congress in the history of this country;" that he's voted with his party 92 percent of the time, and harshly criticized Rep. Schilling for spending nearly $500,000 on taxpayer-funded mailings (the most in Congress) and supporting policies she claims encourage outsourcing jobs to China.
Rep. Schilling said he's "one of the most bipartisan members of Congress" (including voting with Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack 34 percent of the time); that he does not support outsourcing of jobs abroad, and that his mailings cost less than 50 cents per constituent and one actually saved the life of a local resident's father, who was in a bus accident in Mexico.
"I don't know how much dollar value you could put on a United States citizen's life," Rep. Schilling said to loud boos and applause. He said he's kept campaign promises to reject his Congressional pension and healthcare, and that he reads every bill before voting on it. Rep. Schilling claimed Ms. Bustos "has no ideas at all on how to fix the problems" in this country.
Ms. Bustos said that like in her prior jobs, she will "put people first," and lambasted Republicans for seeking tax breaks for millionaires. The playing field should be level for American companies to compete globally, she noted. Ms. Bustos supports the Bring American Jobs Home Act which, if passed, would close tax loopholes for companies that send jobs overseas and create incentives for companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans in July, and is opposed by Rep. Schilling.
"Not all bills, because they have a beautiful name, are good," he said Sunday. The bill would have incentivized American companies that built overseas, shut those plants down, and open in the U.S., Rep. Schilling said, noting Congress should help keep companies from moving in the first place, and reduce burdensome regulations to improve the business climate. He also opposed the act because Illinois employers, such as John Deere and Caterpillar, should not be penalized for having plants abroad.
The Congressman also blamed the Democratic-controlled Senate for being dysfunctional, because they have failed to pass a budget, and have not taken up dozens of jobs bills passed in the House.
Illinois Sen. Jacobs claimed Mr. Albracht wants to get rid of police, fire and teacher unions, and said the biggest difference between them is that he wants a stricter voter ID law, which would keep millions of Hispanics from voting. "It's high time in this country we make voting easier, not harder," Sen. Jacobs said, accusing his opponent of racism.
Mr. Albracht said he doesn't want to do away with unions, didn't address voter ID and said his biggest priority is getting the state's finances in order and government out of the way of business, so it can create more jobs.
"I understand being regulated, but you have to learn to work with people, not just say it," Sen. Jacobs said to his opponent. He also questioned what Mr. Albracht meant when he said Illinois has all the restrictions of the Soviet Union, but none of its benefits. (Mr. Albracht responded it was a quote from a "learned man," and "high humor.")
Both Rep. Schilling and Sen. Jacobs praised the Hispanic community locally and nationally for being a strong engine of job growth; Sen. Jacobs said: "We have a lot to learn from these folks." He also cited leadership in bringing state funds home for many capital projects, including Western Illinois University and KONE Centre in Moline.
Regarding the deferral of deportation of children of illegal immigrants, Mr. Albracht said a path to citizenship should require those 18 and older to serve in the military or another organization like the Peace Corps. Sen. Jacobs responded: "I have a serious issue with indentured servitude. Why don't we let them go to school and get educated?"
Mr. Albracht said those children of illegals shouldn't be rewarded before those immigrants who have gone through proper channels for citizenship.
Sunday's forum also included debates in races for State Representative (Districts 71 and 72) and Rock Island County State's Attorney.