By Courtney Westlake
Campus and community members gathered on Tuesday evening to listen to the 18th Congressional Seat Forum, which took place at UIS in the Public Affairs Center. The candidates included Jim McConoughey, John Morris and Aaron Schock. The event was sponsored by UIS and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Chris Mooney, professor of political science at UIS, moderated the debate.
The candidates started by introducing themselves and giving opening remarks. They then fielded questions from Mooney on a variety of political topics, including the importance of endorsements, congressional earmarks, social security, the local and national economy and more.
Schock, a Peoria native and current State Representative, said he believes the government's role is not to create jobs but to create an environment that encourages jobs and investments from businesses.
"I believe the best way to do that is to keep marginal tax rates low, to keep tax rates on dividends and investments low," he said. "We have to make sure not only the state of Illinois, but our country remains competitive in a global market."
Morris, a former Peoria City Council member, stressed that he wants to do away with the death tax and that his highest priority is national security.
"There are threats out there," he said. "I think the defense of this country, the watchful eye, the level of intelligence, the training of specialists - this is critical. And when I get to Congress, this is going to be a top priority: national safety and security."
McConoughey, who is the CEO of a Peoria-based business umbrella group and admitted he is not a "professional politician," said the challenge for most local areas is that money is needed to be able to get projects done and correct core infrastructure problems.
"In most marketplaces, as a Congressman, I need to be able to assist the local efforts in being able to restore, replace, replenish and create new jobs in the future. I'll put a director of economic development on the staff in order to aid in new programs," he promised the audience. "It's a multi-faceted, multi-disciplined approach."
All three Republican candidates admitted they agree on many issues, but will have varying priorities if elected. The 18th Congressional primary election will take place on February 5.