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State candidates face off on campus

The Bradley vs. Illinois State basketball game may have been heated, but it was the not the only place to catch some quality competition this weekend.

Last Saturday, with only a few days left before the election, seven Illinois Lieutenant Governor candidates visited Bradley to debate their stances on critical issues.

The first few rows of Neumiller Lecture Hall in Bradley Hall were filled with community members, students and members of the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters.

Candidates present included Republicans Brad Cole, Jason Plummer and Don Tracy, and Democrats Mike Boland, Thomas Castillo, Art Turner and Rickey Hendon.

Democrat Scott Lee Cohen, who was not present, won his party’s primary on Tuesday with 26 percent of the vote in the six-way race. It remains unclear who the victor in the Republican primary is. That race is within a few thousand votes.

The candidates were asked a series of questions and given 90 seconds to answer. The most pressing issues brought up were the economy, the disconnect between legislative and elective branches, term limits and the Illinois Fair Map Amendment, which would provide for a legislative map drawn by an independent commission without a political leaning.

The candidates were divided on nearly every issue except for the Illinois Fair Map Amendment, where they gave their unanimous support.

“We need to get the politics out of redistricting, and have an independent council working on this,” Castillo said.

Cole said he agreed.

“The process right now is skewed in favor of recumbence,” he said. “They are gerrymandered.”

The remainder of the questions was roughly split, even among candidates of the same party. The economy especially caused the discussion to heat up.

“At this time, the Illinois economy is in trouble,” Tracy said. “Our house is on fire. When your house is on fire, you don’t work on the landscaping.”

Solutions to the economic disarray varied from tax breaks and tax increases to lottery machines.

“We have to show people that we are serious about cutting waste and saving when we can,” Boland said. “We need to find ways people can voluntarily increase spending, like placing lottery machines at every Illinois rest stop and bringing in more casinos.”

Turner said a tax increase is inevitable.

“It’s just something we can’t get around with a $11-13 billion deficit,” he said. “The income tax may have to rise slightly, and I think we can make more cuts in offices.”

Each candidate gave a two-minute closing statement about what they have done and hope to do as lieutenant governor.

There were very few students present in the audience, but sophomores Emily Racette, a political science major, and Dema Assaf, a mechanical engineering major, said attending the debate was worthwhile.

“As a political science major, it is very important that I know what is going on in politics,” Racette said. “And I think it’s crucial for students to take advantage of these opportunities to see what our candidates stand for.”

Assaf said she thought it was interesting to see the difference in opinions.

“I have never been to a live debate before, but I think it’s amazing to see how politics can sometimes bring out the best in people,” she said.