If the first debate is any indication, the 2nd District special election will be about biographies and personalities, not issues. Everyone agrees the south suburbs need an airport. Everyone agrees the Red Line needs to be extended to 130th Street. The question is who’s best qualified to make those projects happen -- and who’s least likely to engage in the kind of corruption that brought down Jesse Jackson Jr.
Three of the candidates -- Ald. Anthony Beale, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, and state Sen. Donne Trotter -- appeared together on Fox 32 Sunday
. Former Rep. Deb Halvorson and Robin Kelly, chief administrative officer for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, declined invitations.
Hutchinson stirred the pot by suggesting that “it’s time for a woman” to represent the district -- a reference, no doubt, to the fact that the last three congressmen have all been accused of sexual misconduct. She pointed out that she would be the first African-American woman in the House since Cardiss Collins, who represented the West Side from 1973 to 1997. (Hutchinson didn’t point out that she’d be the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress since Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.)
Trotter said it was “divisive” to insist on a congresswoman. He pointed out that his 24 years in the General Assembly -- six in the House, 18 in the Senate -- give him the legislative experience to bring a long-coveted third airport to the south suburbs.
Not only has Trotter worked on the airport plan through five governors, and $67 million in state investments, “I served under one of the most acrimonious leaders in the country, Pate Philip,” he said.
The airport has not been built because “we’ve had these personalities grappling with each other.”
Hutchinson predicted that the first airplane could land in Peotone in 2015 “if we can get the governance worked out.”
“I knew when I came in [as senator] I was going to have to bring all parties together,” she said. “We’ve got all these parties that wouldn’t be in the same room together.”
Beale, the 9th Ward alderman, boasted that he brought a Wal-Mart to the Far South Side, and predicted he could bring the Red Line there by 2016 or 2017. Beale’s ward includes the Altgeld Gardens housing project, which is a 90-minute bus and train ride from downtown, on a good day. The extension will require hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
“Old Man Daley was talking about the Red Line 30-40 years ago,” Beale said. “It’s going to happen. We’re in Step 4 of 7 -- 7 is funding.”
Hutchinson said the lack of transportation means that “people who live on the South Side are paying a very high tax. They need to get to work. Not enough jobs are on the South Side.”
Trotter is a member of the Task Force on Federal Deficit Reduction, a nationwide group of legislators who lobbied Congress to reduce the deficit without imposing severe cuts on the states. That experience in Washington will help him bring resources back to the South Side and the south suburbs, he said.
“I’ll go there filling a void, not trying to learn a job,” he said.