Congressional candidate accused of resume-building

Bernard Schoenburg

Democrat Colleen Callahan used a debate format Tuesday night to accuse Republican Aaron Schock of resume-building in his run for Congress, but Schock said after the event that Callahan is going negative because she is trailing in the race.

The third candidate in the contest for the U.S. House seat from the 18th Congressional District — Green Party candidate Sheldon Schafer of Peoria — told about 100 people at MacMurray College that his election would give the message that the central Illinois district is sending an independent voice to represent it.

The two-hour debate was sponsored by the World Affairs Council of West Central Illinois in cooperation with the League of Women Voters of Morgan County. The candidates are vying for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, who is not seeking re-election.

At 27, Schock, of Peoria, is in his second term in the Illinois House, and earlier served on the Peoria School Board, including a stint as president.

Callahan, of Kickapoo, in her closing statement, said the more than 30 years in her farm broadcasting career, being married to a Marine veteran of Vietnam and having a daughter with student loan debt shows a range of experience that would help her understand and serve the public.

“This is no time to be building a resume,” Callahan said. “This is not a stepping stone for me, nor is it a resting place.”

“It’s more of the same,” Schock said after the debate. “Both television ads that she’s aired have been attacks on me. I think it’s the politics of personal destruction. When you’re behind and there’s four weeks to go, you attack.”

Answering an earlier question about how to fight the partisanship infecting Washington, Schock said he had to cross the partisan aisle and get Democratic support to pass bills in the General Assembly, and in another shot at what he sees as Callahan’s negative ads, said he’s never aired an attack ad in any of his races.

“I think the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior,” Schock said.

Callahan said that as a long-time farm broadcaster, she has always believed in dialogue and working with everyone. She noted that she helped host a fundraiser for Republican LaHood at her home.

“He served us well,” she said.

Schafer said the Green Party is not structured with a hierarchy like Democrats or Republicans, and he would be able to base decisions on data and be a watchdog against control of special interests.

While three educators presented most of the questions, the candidates were each offered the chance to ask another candidate a question, and Callahan asked Schock why he opposed golden parachutes for Wall Street executives in companies being bailed out by recent federal legislation, while also having local taxpayers pick up the tab for expenses surrounding a fundraising visit to Peoria for Schock by President George Bush this summer.

“How many questions do we get?” Schock asked as Callahan followed up with the Bush query, calling the expenditures irresponsible.

Schock said the Secret Service, not Schock’s campaign, asked Peoria for help. The issue was raised by a Peoria City Council member who supports Callahan, and Schock said that in an unprecedented move, he decided to offer to pay the city. He said earlier he would pay at least $38,000.

Among other issues discussed:

-- On a proposal to allow unions to be given bargaining rights in the workplace if a majority of covered workers sign organizing cards, instead of choosing a union through a secret ballot, Schock said he would oppose the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.

He said he supports union rights to organize, but the bill would dramatically change the right to a secret ballot and could lead to face-to-face confrontations as organizers ask co-workers to sign cards.

Schafer said that while there are good unions and bad unions, he would support the bill because it has the spirit of the American worker at its heart.

Callahan said the current administration in Washington has not been friendly to labor, and has favored corporations. She would support the free choice act, which employees favor, she said.

-- On health care, Callahan said she’s for a universal system that would incorporate current insurance with other options for the uninsured. She said insurance should travel with a person from job to job, and should cover dental, vision and mental health needs.

The challenge is how to fund it, she said.

Schock said he opposes a single-payer government plan, but would seek to hold down costs through managed care and more use of electronic medical records. He said other countries with single-payer systems end up with rationing of care.

Schafer said he’s talked to Canadians who like their single-payer national system, and said while there is a wait for some non-emergency procedures, there isn’t rationing. Single-payer is the best system, he said.

Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at (217) 788-1540.