Fresh Paint
Sunday, October 26, 2008
League of Women Voters Wilmette Candidate Forum
Just back from the Biss-Coulson candidate forum organized by the League of Women Voters in Wilmette. It was actually quite interesting, non-partisan, etc., even though some Republican guy who claimed he was scheduled for the debate kept being a jerk and trying to hand out campaign lit. Since there was supposed to be no electioneering, I had to cover up the t-shirt and buttons. A League rep made one of the audience put away the Republican's materials, and I alerted them to another supporter trying to get away with flashing them. Same rules for all.

Coulson seemed oddly nervous at times, almost panicky -- I think it was beginning to freak her out that she actually had a viable Democratic Party opponent in a year when Republicans at all levels of government will go down to defeat. While the two candidates tend to agree on many issues, Coulson's solution tends to be (wait for it...) budgetary cuts.

Biss's suggestion (in response to a question about environment and energy) is to make sure Illinois gets in on the manufacturing and R & D ground floor of all these great new energy initiatives, pointing out that as of now, jobs and wealth in these technologies is being created overseas. He spoke about other issues (such as flat vs. progressive taxation -- Illinois state tax is flat -- with obvious understanding of how it works here). Coulson sometimes seemed a little befuddled at what he was saying.

The oddest and most confusing response Coulson gave was about whether there is or isn't gridlock in Springfield, and whether she's part of it or not. She started out saying there was none, then flipped back to saying that some of her initiatives have sat in committee for 12 years, then going back again. Biss contends that proposed legislative rule changes would break the power of some of the entrenched committees and open the process up to -- yes -- the legislative process. It didn't sound as though she'd thought much about that particular question.

This was probably the first time it really struck me how difficult it is to be a challenger to an entrenched, moderately successful politician who has a record that can be cherry-picked and pointed to with pride, depending on the audience (not that Coulson does it, but still...). As a Republican, she's not Satan, per se -- though many in what passes for the GOP would probably brand her as a relativistic commie type who kills babies, etc. etc.

Daniel Biss is not just a smart guy -- mathematics professor, etc., big-brained genius-type -- but he's genuine, very down-to-earth and funny too. If he's against something, he doesn't waffle. He speaks passionately about fake issues that scare us (like non-existent voter fraud -- and picture id requirements, which both he and Coulson are against). This, I think, is what so many people respond to, and I saw a lot of head nodding in the audience whenever he was clearly speaking from the heart.

Unfortunately, the format only allowed for 2 minute responses, and no followup questions. Coulson has, of course, done this many many times before, while Biss is still new to the process. I have a feeling, though, that many of us could have listened to his ideas for a lot longer than 2 minutes.

So, if you're in the 17th Illinois State Congressional District (Skokie, Wilmette, parts of Evanston, etc.), go vote for him and you'll get your chance.

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