By Jennifer Wessner Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — With two weeks to go before the general election, the two men fighting for the 17th Congressional District’s House seat squared off on Tuesday in a debate in Springfield.
Congressman Phil Hare, D-IL, and Republican challenger Bobby Schilling participated in the downstate debate that was put on by The Central Illinois Women’s Bar Association and The Government Bar Association.
Green Party candidate Roger Davis joined the two candidates in the panel discussion that ranged from extending the Bush tax cuts and how to lower the national debt.
But the main focus of the event was Hare and Schilling’s contentious interactions.
Hare blamed Schilling for not having a real plan for dealing with the country’s issues.
“This is about specifics and issues,” Hare said. “I didn’t hear a single bill. I heard a lot of complaining, but I didn’t hear a single proposal put forth by Mr. Shilling about what he would do.”
But Schilling said Hare is just trying to distract voters from his record.
“It’s all about Phil Hare’s voting record is chasing jobs out of this country, how he continues to spend money ridiculously and our kids and our grandkids are going to have to answer back to that,” Schilling said.
Hare and Schilling disagreed on their efforts to create more jobs in the state.
Schilling said he took a tour of the district to motivate local businesses to hire new employees.
“As I’ve toured the 17th Congressional District, what we did this past year is we did a ‘Bobs for Jobs Tour’,” Schilling said. We stopped into 34 different cities and visited with the folks that are actually creating the jobs. And out of those folks, it’s probably 90 percent of them would tell me, ‘you know what Bobby? We’re prepared to create and expand more jobs and our business, but because of the environment that the government’s created, we’re unwilling too.”’
But Hare said Shilling’s tour wasn’t useful.
“Bobby said he was going to have the “Bobs for Jobs Tour” and have a 10 point program,” Hare said. “I haven’t heard one yet. Not a single solitary thing.”
The only they agreed on, but couldn’t even agree to agree on was the building of a veteran’s clinic in Macoupin County. The proposed clinic was added by Rep. Hare into the controversial Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill in the U.S. House.
Hare said he’s always supported the clinic, but said Schilling’s support of the clinic is disingenuous.
“He [Schilling] says he supports the clinic, the veterans clinic in Macoupin,” Hare said. “We wouldn’t have this clinic if it was Congressman Shilling, because he doesn’t support those kinds of funding initiatives. He’s made that very clear.”
Schilling said he does support the clinic, but wants to think long term.
“Anything to help our veterans,” Schilling said. “What I’d like to do is push that one step farther is instead of continuing to build these things, how about our veterans go to any hospital across the United States of America, instead of having to drive 100 or 200 miles to get service.”
It’s been a tough race for Hare. He is running for re-election for a seat that’s been held by Democrats for 20 years. National Republicans think Schilling has a chance of unseating Hare. Voters will have their choice on Nov. 2.