Hultgren, Anderson offer different plans for reshaped 14th district
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org October 26, 2012 6:48PM
14th Congressional incumbent, republican Randy Hultgren (left) and democratic challenger Dennis Anderson react to a joke by host Ryan Morton of WSPY Radio during a meet the candidates night at the Old Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville on Thursday, October 18, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Republican, 46, of Winfield Township
Former State legislature, first term U.S. Congressman
Democrat, 61, of Gurnee
Retired medical researcher
Updated: December 26, 2012 1:25AM
The most obvious difference between the two men running for Congress in the 14th District is name recognition.
Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren has been involved in politics since he was elected to the DuPage County Board in 1994. He served more than a decade in the Illinois General Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2010. He has a well-organized and well-funded campaign staff.
Democrat Dennis Anderson of Gurnee has never even run for class president. The retired medical researcher decided to take his first steps into politics when he saw new boundaries would put controversial Congressman Joe Walsh in his district. When Democrats redesigned the maps, the 14th District was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb. The district was shifted north (only half of the redesigned 14th was in the old district), to force Hultgren and Walsh into a primary.
When Walsh decided to run in the 8th District, Anderson found himself in a low-profile race in the massive new 14th District. The district touches seven counties, including Lake, Kane, Kendall and DuPage. It stretches from Illinois’ northern border, south to Kendall County and Naperville.
“Everything in the district is at least an hour and half from everything else in the district,” Anderson joked.
Of course, the differences between the candidates are more than just the fund-raising capability. There is a distinct ideological separation between Hultgren and Anderson that mostly follows party lines.
Hultgren believes government is burying America’s small businesses in regulations and that the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is wrong for the country. He knows government spending must be cut, but says the military budget is off limits.
“We have to find a way to live under $3 trillion,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve got to grow our revenue. I just disagree with my opponent on how we grow that. The way to grow our revenue is to grow our economy.
“I love our country and I still am an optimist and I see a great future. But the problems we’re facing are very serious,” Hultgren said. “I don’t feel like we can’t turn it around. We can.”
Anderson, 61, believes the military budget must be cut and that Affordable Health Care can help millions. He calls the anti-regulation push a red herring.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “I think this is a great country. I think one of the great things about this country is our ability to adapt. By and large, we’re doing fine and we’ll do fine.”
Hultgren, 46, was elected in to the DuPage County Board in 1994, then the Illinois House in 1999. He was serving in the Illinois Senate when he edged incumbent Bill Foster in 2010. Over the last two years, Hultgren says he has been stunned by lack of cooperation in Washington, D.C.
“I had no idea what a continuing resolution was 20 months ago and now I have nightmares about them,” he said, laughing. “I think I’m more sobered by the problems we’ve got and how serious this is and how difficult compromise is, but that it is possible. … I think I’m also a little wiser in knowing more how politics pervades everything. That frustrates me and I want to see what I can do to start changing that.”
Hultgren who is on the science committee, has focused his campaign on increasing funding for science and cutting the federal budget. He would like to eliminate most of Affordable Health Care Act — although he supports allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance and protection for pre-existing conditions.
He said other than to the military, veterans and seniors, all cuts should be on the table. Hultgren would like anyone with a subsidy to appear before Congress to justify their expense.
Anderson says Hultgren’s ideas are just echoes.
“I’ve watched Mr. Hultgren’s public statements...What I see is a basically a repetition of Republican talking points,” he said. “I’m not an ideologue. I think of myself as a pragmatist. I don’t think all good ideas come from Democrats and that all bad ideas from Republicans. It’s only by that dynamic mix and exchange that we arrive at the best solutions.”
Anderson would not keep defense spending cuts off the table. He said there are many U.S. bases and missile systems that could be shut down without jeopardizing America’s safety.
“Anybody who says there’s isn’t room for cuts in the defense budget isn’t really paying attention to the defense budget,” he said.
Before moving to Illinois in 1996, Anderson worked for the Wisconsin Division of Health in Madison. He then worked at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola University in Chicago, helping organize funding and research. He wholeheartedly supports the Affordable Health Care Act and was disappointed the public option (a government health care option) was dropped. Anderson is also critical of Hultgren’s stance on decreasing regulation.
Hultgren says he’s heard from several constituents who feel that regulators are making it impossible to grow their small business. Hultgren said he’s not sure in today’s regulation climate whether his family would have been able to open the funeral home they ran for many years. While not citing a specific regulation he’d eliminate, Hultgren said the atmosphere needs to change.
“I’ve seen it become an adversarial culture where regulators are out there to get you,” he said. “The best career for a regulator is to be the person who writes the most people up or fines the most people, rather than saying: we’re going to celebrate the one who has no failures of compliance. That should be what we’re striving for.”
Anderson said it’s the economy — not government rules — that are hurting small businesses.
“Nice talking point, but I have seen numerous polls that show that’s not what small business people feel,” he said. “What they need is customers. It’s not going to help some shop on Main Street to cut EPA regulations.”