Election 2013: Halvorson, Beale Dominate 2nd District Panel as Kelly, Hutchinson No-Show

Deb Halvorson Photo

Deb Halvorson makes a point during the panel discussion.
(Photo/Josclynn Brandon)

By Josclynn Brandon
The Red Line Project
@RedLineProject

Posted: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013

More than 20 candidates are in the running to replace the seat vacated by Jessie Jackson Jr. in Illinois’ 2nd Congressional district, and Wednesday night 15 of them appeared for a forum held at the Historic Pullman Visitor Center.

With some notable exceptions.

Among candidates who did not attend were Robin Kelly, who currently leads in the polls, and Toi Hutchinson, another strong contender. Kelly's office did not return calls asking why the former Cook County Administrator was absent.

Kelly on Sunday landed an endorsement by the Chicago Tribune, and support from both Congressman Bobby Rush (1st) and Congressman Danny Davis (7th).

Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who were trailing just slightly behind Kelly in last week’s polls, according the TheHill.com, appeared to be crowd favorites during Wednesday's session.

In the Q&A format, one question posed was for the candidates to explain their plans to invest in schools and educational programs. 

“Our dropout rate in high school is awful," Halvorson said. "We need to make sure we have vocational education in the high school. Our kids need to learn a skill before they leave high school.”

Halvorson is a product of vocational education.

“We got to put this back in the high schools so that our kids stay in high school, and they get jobs before they leave," she said. "These are the type of programs the federal government should be working on to help our kids.”

Ald. Anthony Beale

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) talked about his approach to education.
(Photo/Josclynn Brandon)

Beale said education shouldn’t be a state-funded issue.

“Illinois is 49 out of 50 states [in] funding education,” Beale said. “That’s a crisis all in itself.”

“If we can fund two wars, we can sure fund our education system. If we can make sure we send our troops and they have everything they need to protect us, why can’t we put the money back into our kids so we can make sure they are like us?”

Another question to the panel was how the candidates viewed themselves being able to work effectively in the House, where congressmen from urban areas are often not heard.

Beale used his current Wal-Mart development near the Bishop Ford Expressway as a response to the question. 

“I have the largest development in the city of Chicago going on right now off the Bishop Ford Expressway,” he said.

“Somebody who can bring people together for the greater good of our community, and the way I did it … I came at it from a compassionate standpoint. Somebody who can go there and figure out what’s best for us and use the resources for us to get what we need.”

Halvorson said it wouldn’t be a challenge because she has done it in the past.

“I’ve been to Congress and I’ve been the one that has worked across party lines,” she said, “Worked with the Republicans as well as the Democrats on many of the issues I’ve had to get passed.”

Gun control wasn't a topic brought up at the forum, even though it has been part of a Super PAC's TV attack ads on Halvorson and was addressed during the President’s State of the Union speech the day before the forum.

At the close of the forum, candidates were allowed to make a closing statement. Halvorson stressed her previous accomplishments and hitting the ground running if elected.

“I want to go back to Congress to finish what I started," she said. "There are some major things we need to get done. While I was there I had the blessing of being able to create 7,000 jobs in Joliet. We can do the same thing here. I just think that it’s so important that when you elect somebody that the day after the election we can hit the ground running and not have to figure out where the bathroom is. I hope that you will see that it’s somebody like myself who needs to be elected to go back to Congress.”

Although Beale had has not been a representative before, he said being an alderman is great training.

Said Beale: “Alderman is a great training ground for Congress. Congressman [Bobby] Rush, former alderman; Congressman [Danny] Davis, former alderman; Congressman [Luis] Gutierrez, former alderman; Feb. 26, I will be a former alderman because I’ll be your Congressmen.”

The primary election takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

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