Family focus of debate

Karen McDonald

GOP congressional candidate John Morris, 39, says being married with children gives him better perspective than his 26-year-old, single opponent Aaron Schock, who says he can represent families and family values without those qualifications.

"I think having those conversations that I’ve had with my wife at our kitchen table about our children’s grades, about worrying about the moral climate, about getting them to church on time, informs me in a different way," Morris said during a televised debate Monday held at WEEK-TV studios and sponsored by that station, the Journal Star and the League of Women Voters.

Throughout the debate Morris continued to promote his family background as a benefit to the job.

Jim McConoughey, 46, the third Republican primary candidate, said his two children and wife give him strength and the ability to make good decisions. He said, however, that he has never attacked Schock on his family status. "As an experienced family man and a father, my life is richer and I make different types of decisions based on having a family," he said.

Schock, a state representative for the 92nd District, said being single gives him the freedom to conduct a demanding job that is a strain on marriages and children.

"What I think is important to note is that you can’t be everything to everybody," Schock said. "You can’t be 60 years old and represent seniors, you don’t have to be a farmer to represent farmers and you certainly don’t have to be married with children to represent families or have family values."

The three candidates are seeking their party’s nomination for the 18th Congressional District now served by U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. They debated about several issues of the day including education, taxes, constitutional amendments and veterans’ affairs, to name a few.

Both Morris, a former Peoria City councilman, and McConoughey, CEO of the Heartland Partnership, said they would support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Morris and Schock said they would support amendments banning abortion.

Morris also said he would define marriage as that between "one man and one woman."

All three favor making permanent the Bush tax cuts to stimulate the economy and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax of 1969, which does not allow certain deductions and credits and was aimed at a few wealthy families who used deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax. Today, however, it hits a growing number of middle-income taxpayers.

They also agreed spending at the federal level should be scaled back and political earmarks should be more transparent. McConoughey favors attaching congressmen’s names to earmarks.

"That type of disclosure I think makes a fairness in the process, it allows the American people and all the folks that are looking at the budget to understand who’s getting the money. You can really clear up what the pork is," McConoughey said.

All three candidates said they oppose a national health care plan. McConoughey and Morris are proponents of Health Savings Accounts, and Schock supports a move toward electronic medical records, which he said would help deliver health care more cost efficiently and avoid duplication of services.

Finally, on veterans issues, Schock said treating veterans fairly, including appropriating necessary funds, should be a priority. If elected, both he and Morris said they would appoint a veterans’ affairs specialist to their staff.

"I think that we expect the men and women that go off and fight for our country to give it their best and give us their best and when they come back here to our country, back to their homes, they deserve nothing but the best from us," Schock said.

No Democrats are running in the Feb. 5 primary, though one can be placed on the ballot for the November general election by party leaders.

Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or