Sixteen of the 22 candidates vying for 2nd Congressional District seat took part in a forum Sunday that put them up close – and in some cases, quite personal – with some would-be constituents.
The sheer number of candidates made for time-consuming responses to questions asked at the forum held at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side. For each question asked by moderator Charles Thomas, political reporter for ABC7 Chicago television news, it took no less than 20 minutes for all of the candidates to respond.
But the modest crowd that gathered in the church’s main sanctuary to listen to the forum was nevertheless engaged.
The eclectic pool of candidates included political veterans and business men and women who said they were simply looking to bring change to the District.
For time’s sake, Thomas had to ask some questions that he said required a simple “yes” or “no” reply.
A question on violence kicked off the forum. With only one minute to answer, candidates told whether they would support a ban on assault weapons.
“No,” said Democrat Nancy Halvorson, who lost handily to former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson in the March 2012 primary. Jackson’s resignation one month after winning re-election led to the special election taking place Feb. 26. She said the current laws regarding guns should be strengthened before new ones are adopted.
And it was a “no” for Republican candidate Paul McKinley who said repeatedly that he was “running against the (Democratic) Machine.”
But candidate Anthony Beale, Chicago 9th Ward alderman, said he would “absolutely” support a ban. And Robin Kelly boasted that she got an “F” from the National Rifle Association, “something I’m proud of,” she said. Most other candidates who responded affirmatively also called for investment in mental health as part of gun control.
Patrick Brutus went so far as to lament that 500-plus murders in all of 2012 in Chicago didn’t get the media attention as the December 2012 slayings in Newtown, Conn.
Other questions to the candidates touched on the third airport in the Southland that Jackson left unresolved and economic development in the District – which extends as far south as Kankakee – includes three counties and six Chicago wards, dozens of townships and hundreds of thousands of residents.
Jackson had been in office since 1995.
Ironically, Jackson took over the seat from Mel Reynolds who was disgraced after being convicted of sexual assault for having sex with an underage campaign worker.
A question on self-imposed term limits had some candidates reaching for a succinct reply while others quipped right away.
Most, like businessman and newly sworn-in state Sen. Napolean Harris, said yes to limiting their time in office to six to 10 years. But Reynolds, Kelly and Halvorson said flatly “no.”
“Seniority counts in Congress. Seniority means everything,” said Beale, who would not agree to self-imposed term limits.
The forum went a little over its allotted time, held between services at the church. Niva Lubin-Johson, MD, chair of the Church and Society ministry, which sponsored the forum, called the event a success.
She said the ministry’s point was to help educate members on the candidates for office. Though the church is not in the 2nd District, many of the its congregants are, said Lubin-Johnson.