By Suzanne Baker
It was a small showing Tuesday for the 11th District Congressional candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County at Aurora University where Republican challenger Nick Stella squared off against incumbent Democrat Bill Foster.
Patricia Lackman of the League of Women Voters, who served as moderator at the forum, said she was “saddened and disappointed” only 20 members of the public showed up for the forum.
“That’s kind of a sad state of affairs,” Lackman said.
She said as a nonpartisan organization, the league strives to develop informed voters.
By attending the forum, “it says you believe in democracy and want to have your voice heard,” Lackman told the audience.
For an hour, the candidates went back and forth on topics suggested by members of the audience. Their responses, for the most part, fell along party lines.
The 11th District stretches from Aurora to Burr Ridge and extends south into Joliet and includes portions of Naperville.
The two were asked how they would eliminate any debt created by the GOP tax bill that is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over the coming decade.
“The Republican tax plan is a mistake,” Foster said, adding that the wealthy need to pay their fair share of taxes.
Stella disagreed, saying people should look at the good things that have come as a result of the tax bill, which has “helped to put money back in the pockets of everyday working-class Americans.”
Stella said the hope is to pay off the debt by growing the economy and increasing tax revenue.
On the issue of immigration, Foster said it was tragic that Congress hasn’t approved a comprehensive immigration reform measure, saying he is concerned about “the vilification of immigrants and separation of families and the long list of immigration outrages that are in this country today.”
Stella suggested the children who were brought to America illegally by their parents should not be given preferential treatment. However, he said as long as they’ve lived a “good life and not broken laws and not committed felonies, I think we can think about a pathway to citizenship.”
However, he said they should not be put above people who’ve immigrated to the United States legally.
Regarding having a question on the 2020 U.S. Census requiring people to check a box if they are a citizen or not, Stella said he doesn’t feel strongly either way.
Stella said he understands some question whether people will fill out the census if they are in the United States illegally because they are worried about being deported.
“I don’t know that I agree with those statements,” he added.
Foster said statistics show a citizenship question will result in a reduction in the number of people counted. He said the U.S. Constitution says you should count people, not citizens.
He said he has talked to the mayors of Aurora, Bolingbrook and Joliet about the potential loss of federal funds if the local population is undercounted.
“You’re talking about millions of dollars being removed from Illinois’ 11th District,” Foster said.
On the issue of Medicare, Stella said Congress has been afraid to make the important decisions.
“I think that Medicare has been a promise we’ve made to our senior citizens for an awful long time now, and unfortunately the likelihood we can keep that promise decreases with each and every day,” he said.
“I think we need to look at other ways to help our seniors. We need to expand coverage,” but do it in a “fiscally prudent manner,” Stella said.
Foster said Medicare needs to be expanded and strengthened and more money should be put into diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease research.
When it comes to infrastructure, both said they’ll push to bring more federal dollars to the area for projects.