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Ananth Baliga 2CDJOBS

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Candidates running to represent the 2nd Congressional District debated issues like guns and violence, jobs and leadership

Jobs ideas aren't new, but promised push is

by Ananth Baliga
Jan 31, 2013

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Audience members were supportive of the candidates efforts and said the debates helped narrow down their choices.

Ananth Baliga/MEDILL

Candidates in the 2nd Congressional District offered initiatives to improve the district’s economic situation Wednesday. While most of the suggestions weren’t new, each candidate promised a renewed vigor to push them forward.

Frontrunner Debbie Halvorson made a strong pitch for bringing jobs to the area. She said she had created 7,000 jobs in the Joliet area when she was Congresswoman in the 11th District. The2nd District should look to start advanced-manufacturing units and she said she would be able to push this through Congress.

“We need to have people with these kinds of relationships, to hit the ground running on day one to work on projects,” Halvorson said of her Congressional experience.

Halvorson was joined by candidates state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), Robin Kelly, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and mortgage attorney Ernest Fenton in the debate, held at Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields. The debate, attended by about 100 constituents, passed without much conflict, though there were a few personal rebukes between Beale and Fenton.

The South Suburban Airport, which has been mired in controversy, was an issue touched on by every candidate. Ald. Beale was the most vocal about the benefits of the airport saying that upfront the project would create nearly 15,000 jobs, with that number going up to 150,000 once the airport is functional.

“We haven’t brought all three counties together. We are infighting with Cook County, Kankakee County and Will County,” said Ald. Beale. ”You build an airport with a few hundred thousand jobs there is enough for everybody.”

Fenton, a relatively unknown candidate, was vociferous in his attack on the other candidates, singling out Ald. Beale, saying that he himself had created jobs for 17 years and the policy to follow for creating jobs was “to stop creating jobs” and to help young people become innovators. This comment was met with loud applause from the audience.

“Stop killing the ingenuity of young people in our educational system and tell them how they will take their place in this global economy,” Fenton said.

Kelly, who was endorsed by state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) earlier in the day, said the focus should be on small businesses. She said she would introduce legislation, called the “Robin Kelly Contractor Diversity Program,” to help local contractors.

“I am going to make sure when there is a government project that hometown people get hometown jobs, because not a lot of that is done now,” said Kelly, a former state rep and aide to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

While audience members applauded the proposals put forth by the candidates present, some said the debate had helped them narrow down the wide field of 16 Democratic candidates to a few favorites.

“I think I know of two candidates that I may choose and [the debate has] made it harder,” said Patsy Graves, a resident of Park Forest.