By Melissa Jenco and Michelle Manchir
8:43 PM CST, January 31, 2014
Four Republicans vying in a west and southwest suburban congressional primary said Friday that Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is vulnerable because he voted for the Affordable Care Act and won’t have President Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket.
The 11th Congressional District hopefuls in the March 18 primary also laid out their priorities during a meeting with the Tribune editorial board.
“I believe in smaller government, less taxes and less regulation and every day I wake up I’m represented by someone who believes in more government, voted for Obamacare, more taxes and more regulation and that disturbs me,” said three-term state Rep. Darlene Senger, 58, a former Naperville City Council member.
Ian Bayne, a real estate appraiser and conservative radio talk show host, said the district leans more Republican than people may think, arguing that “hard-working people are conservative.” The 40-year-old Aurora resident stressed the need for free markets, especially for health care.
Contenders Chris Balkema of Channahon and Bert Miller of Hinsdale live outside the district, which includes Naperville, Aurora and Joliet. Each candidate indicated they spend a significant amount of time in the district for their jobs.
Miller, 66, recently retired as CEO of Phoenix Closures, a Naperville-based manufacturer of bottle caps. He said his experience in hiring and managing gives him a leg up on helping spark job creation. Miller said he wants to see tax structure changes that benefit businesses and also the building of U.S. oil pipelines, which could lead to more jobs. “I want Americans put to work,” he said.
Balkema, 42, a purchasing manager at Caterpillar Inc. and a Grundy County Board member, said he sees potential in resurrecting the country’s manufacturing foundation, and that decreasing the corporate tax rate to spur economic growth is his priority.
“There is nothing standing in our way other than rolling up our sleeves, forgetting the microphone and getting to work behind the scenes with both sides of the aisle,” Balkema said.
Asked what makes Foster vulnerable, the Republican candidates noted that suburban Democratic congressional candidates have fared worse when Obama is not leading the Democratic ticket as he was in 2008 and 2012.
A Foster campaign spokeswoman issued a statement that did not address the Republican contentions of his vulnerability but went after “Tea Party Republicans” who have brought “our economy to the brink with a government shutdown and threat of default, cut essential safety nets for working families like unemployment insurance, and block every attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
A fifth candidate, Craig Robbins, a captain in the Illinois National Guard from Lisle, didn’t attend the meeting and said by phone he is “strongly considering withdrawing candidacy due to a number of military service and business obligations.”
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