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DuPage County, 41st Senate candidates field questions at forum

DuPage County Board candidates Steve Nero (from left), Liz Chaplin, Martin Tully, Greg Hart and Julie Renehan listen to questions asked Oct. 14 during a candidate forum in Downers Grove.
DuPage County Board candidates Steve Nero (from left), Liz Chaplin, Martin Tully, Greg Hart and Julie Renehan listen to questions asked Oct. 14 during a candidate forum in Downers Grove.

DOWNERS GROVE – Five of the six candidates running for DuPage County Board Districts 2 and 3 fielded a variety of questions Oct. 14 at a candidate forum sponsored by the DG Marchers.

About 60 people attended the late-afternoon forum, which was at the First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove.

District 3 candidates Greg Hart, a current County Board member from Hinsdale; Martin Tully, the mayor of Downers Grove; and Julie Renehan, a Democrat from Hinsdale, were joined by District 2 candidates Liz Chaplin, the County Board’s lone Democrat, and Republican Steve Nero, a Westmont trustee.

District 2 incumbent Peter DiCianni of Elmhurst did not attend the event.

Two seats are up for election in each district.

"I am running to keep DuPage County strong," said Tully, who pointed to his track record as Downers Grove mayor as a qualification for County Board. "It's a track record of getting things done."

Hart, who was appointed to the County Board in September 2017, said he has worked to solve the county's opioid crisis and freeze property taxes during his first year in office. He also touted his professional experience as a project management consultant as a qualification.

Renehan, a pro bono attorney, said running for County Board is a logical next step in her career.

"I want to take my commitment to the next level by serving on the DuPage County Board," she said.

Nero also pointed to his experience in village government as a qualification for County Board. A member of the Westmont Village Board since 2011, Nero said his professional experience as a specialist in local government management qualifies him for the job.

Chaplin, a Downers Grove resident and member of the County Board since 2012, said she's dedicated to fighting "excessive salary and benefits" for board members. She added she's working to restore residents' faith and trust in government.

The candidates also shared their views on the role DuPage County should play in offering social services.

Nero said the county should better leverage the services currently offered by promoting them through communities in the county.

Chaplin said a proposed 10-percent cut in the county's human services budget is a bad idea, especially when there have been no proposed cuts in elected officials' benefits.

"We are slowly chipping away at services," she said.

Tully said the county needs to collaborate and partner with the private sector to provide essential services.

"It is possible to do more with less," he said.

Renehan proposed reducing the number of board members that represent each district by one.

"We need to be passionate about the budget," she said.

Candidates also discussed their ideas for economic growth in the county.

Hart said keeping the tax burden low and investing in the workforce via vocational training were keys to improving economic growth. He added, however, that public transportation within the county must be improved to help workers get to their jobs.

Renehan, meanwhile, said improving county infrastructure was crucial to economic viability, while Nero said reaching out to developers was key.

"You have to be easy to do business with," Nero said.

Chaplin was more critical of the county's economic development efforts.

"There has been no investment in the future of DuPage County," she said, adding that Choose DuPage, an economic development alliance between members of the public and private sectors, does little more than "promote elected officials."

Chaplin added the county does nothing to support small business owners.

Before the County Board candidates spoke, the first hour of the forum was dedicated to candidates running for state and federal offices.

Sean Casten, Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, answered several questions. His opponent, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, did not attend the event.

Anne Stava-Murray, Democratic candidate for state representative in the 81st District, was on hand, but her opponent, state Rep. David Olsen, R-Downers Grove, did not attend.

Both candidates in the race for the 41st Illinois Senate District – incumbent state Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, and Democrat Bridget Fitzgerald – also participated in the event, which was moderated by Downers Grove commissioner Bob Barnett and DG Marchers member Elissa Baker.

Curran, a former member of the DuPage County Board, and Fitzgerald, the village clerk of Western Springs, discussed a variety of issues, including term limits.

Fitzgerald called for term limits for legislative leaders. Curran proposed going a step further.

"We need term limits on everyone in the legislature," said Curran, who called term limits on legislative leaders "a shell game."

Both candidates agreed gerrymandering legislative districts needs to be addressed. Fitzgerald does not believe legislative districts should split towns or school districts.

On gun control, Fitzgerald said she supports increasing taxes on the sale of ammunition.

Curran, meanwhile, said the Senate took a significant step by passing legislation that gives the Illinois State Police oversight of gun dealers. The legislation has not yet been signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

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